By Alan Cawley
Now that the silverware has been handed out it’s that time of the year when I get to choose my Premier Division Team of the Year. As always lots of tough decisions but here is my take on who the stand-out performers were. I am opting for a 4-2-3-1 formation.
1. Brendan Clarke, St Patrick's Athletic
Very tough decision as it boiled down to the battle of the clean sheet kings Clarke and Gary Rogers. The reason I have gone for Brendan is because every championship winning side needs a reliable and consistent goalkeeper which he has been. His distribution is also excellent, a side of the game which is becoming more of a feature for goalkeepers in the modern day. He has also been incredibly strong mentally especially the way he has bounced back from his personal heartbreak in last season’s cup final.
2. Ger O'Brien, St Patrick's Athletic
Ger has had another fantastic season and has also been extremely consistent this year. Defensively he is very sound. It's his attacking forays which catch the eye and playing in such a free flowing passing side he provides a great outlet for his teammates wide on the right. He staved off some stiff competition as Alan Keane has also had a strong season but Ger gets the nod for me.
3. Ian Bermingham, St Patrick's Athletic
Ian has really come on leaps and bounds this year. Every time I have watched him I have been impressed. Again he is also sound defensively but just like Ger it's his forward runs and link play which is so impressive. Very composed with a cultured left foot he has been the stand out left full in the league. I'd like to also give a mention to Luke Byrne who is a kid who has a bright future and really come to the fore in a very youthful Bohemians team.
4. Conor Kenna, St Patrick's Athletic
This was one of the toughest decisions for me as Kenna and Gavin Peers have been tremendous all year. I have given the nod to Conor because he has been so reliable, consistent and has been a leader throughout the whole campaign for St Patricks Athletic. Having captained his team to championship glory he more than deserves his place in the team.
5. Kenny Browne, St Patrick's Athletic
You might see a pattern developing here but the whole St Patricks Athletic defence have been outstanding. I played with Kenny when he was just starting off and everyone could see the potential he had. He is now maturing into that player everyone hoped he would become. Very good technically and more than capable of stepping into the play and starting attacks for his teammates. Himself and Kenna have formed a solid foundation at the centre of defence upon which their success has been built.
6. Greg Bolger, St Patrick's Athletic
Greg has really stepped up to the plate this season playing in his preferred position as the deepest lying midfielder after that slot was vacated by the departure of James Chambers. He provides great protection for his back four and has no problem getting stuck into the ugly side of the game. He is also very good technically and a good passer of the ball. His special moment came against Sligo Rovers when he thundered in a pile driver from 25 yards to cap off a memorable season.
7. Stephen O’Donnell, Dundalk
Another top performer this season. Captained Dundalk to a fabulous finish and although Richie Towell was getting all the rave reviews, I think O’Donnell was the driving force behind Dundalk this season. He remained injury free all season too which was a massive help as he has been hindered by injuries over the years. He did have a moment of madness in Dalymount a couple of weeks ago trying the "Panenka" penalty but that shouldn't overshadow a great season.
8. Richie Towell, Dundalk
This year’s player of the year in a lot of people's eyes, Towell has been magnificent. May have started the season as an unknown to some but he's certainly not an unknown now. It’s a great achievement reaching double figures in the goal scoring charts from midfield and scoring some crackers along the way. Stephen Kenny will be very keen to tie him down as I'm sure the vultures will be swarming around Oriel Park to prize him away. If they do keep him they will certainly have a great chance of repeating the brilliant season they have had.
9. Patrick Hoban, Dundalk
Another one who may have been relatively unknown but he has burst onto the scene and carried the fight for Dundalk throughout the whole season. Still a bit raw but this season’s experience will only make him improve. He has the right manager in charge of him to nurture him along and I'm sure he will tell you the same. Scores all kinds of goals and really looks to have a bright future ahead of him.
10. Kieran Djilali, Sligo Rovers
The only representative from last season’s champions Sligo Rovers but he has been the star performer for the Westerners. Did take him a while to get going as he did find it difficult adapting to the league and was short of fitness when he did sign. Once he did get up and running he has turned out to be a great signing and a player who can change a game. Likes to dribble with the ball but also sees a pass. He has played behind the striker in recent weeks and I really like him in that position and the wide open spaces of the Aviva stadium in a couple of weeks for the cup final may just suit him down to the ground.
11. Killian Brennan, St Patrick's Athletic
The enigmatic Killian Brennan has been brilliant all season. Liam Buckley has offered him a lot of love this season realising that's the best approach to get the best out of him and he is not wrong. A game changing player you just have to give free reign to in order to reap the rewards. It looks as though he could have finally found his home at Inchicore which will be music to the ears of the St Patricks Athletic fans.
So there you have it, that's my team of the year and I'd fancy that team against anyone. Very reliable goalkeeper and solid back four. Two excellent players, Bolger and O’Donnell, sitting in front of the back four. The front four have free reign to go and express themselves with lots of goals amongst them.
Until next week,