Extratime.ie Team of the Year 2017

Thu, Jan 04 2018

Patrick McEleney's performance in the league and in Europe - pictured here against Rosenborg at Oriel Park - earned him a move to Oldham Athletic. Credit: Michael P Ryan

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Contributors: Tom O'Connor, Andrew Dempsey, Aaron Cawley, Macdara Ferris, Dave Donnelly

 

It's been a dramatic and eventful season on and off the field in the League of Ireland this season, with clubs making headlines for all the right - as well as the wrong - reasons. We've seen Cork City attempt to break decades-old records as they chased Bohemians' record of 28 successive games unbeaten, only to fall short, while Dundalk were in no mood to surrender their crown and brought their challenge right down to the final weeks as they looked to rein in an 18-point deficit. The quality that's been on show in the league is exemplified by the fact no fewer than five of our 11 selections no longer ply their trade in the league - one returning to his parent club and four more earning moves across the Irish Sea. So without any further delay...

 

Premier Division Team of the Year

 

Goalkeeper

 

Mark McNulty

 

What a year it has been for the Cork City shotstopper. Winning both the league & FAI Cup, he helped put the demons of last season behind him and City. The 37-year-old keeper was an important part of the Cork squad keeping in excess of 20 clean sheets in all competitions during the season. (Aaron Cawley)

 

Defenders

 

Niclas Vemmelund

 

Stephen Kenny signed the ball playing former Derry City defender following an impressive showing in the Candystripes’ 2016 season. The Dane continued his good run of form for the Lilywhites with a series of assured performances across the back line. His key attributes include composure on the ball and an ability to read the play while his aerial prowess was also to the fore – most notably in the FAI Cup Final where he nodded in the opener. He also netted four league goals during the 2017 campaign. (Tom O'Connor)

 

Trevor Clarke

 

The 19-year-old player was the Hoops’ Young Player of the Year in 2017 – as he was in 2016. He played at left back and on both left and right-hand sides of midfield across 27 league games. His disciplinary record meant suspensions caused him to miss out on playing in each of the other league games. Clarke got three league goals in 2017 with the best coming with a superb strike in the 2-0 win in Dalymount in the Dublin Derby (see here). (Macdara Ferris)

 

Sean Gannon

 

The rampaging Ringsend right full has been a model of consistency for Dundalk since signing from St Patrick’s Athletic at the start of the 2014 season. Despite his willowy frame, the defender is a tenacious tackler who is blessed with the stamina to shuttle up and down his wing throughout the 90 minutes. Despite having to form numerous relationships down his flank throughout the season, the former Shamrock Rovers player excelled throughout, scoring twice in the league (away against Limerick and home v St Pats) and providing multiple assists. (Tom O'Connor)

 

Ryan Delaney

 

The former Wexford Youths central defender spent the season at Turner’s Cross on loan from Burton Albion. His aerial prowess and tough tackling complemented the experience of Alan Bennett throughout the league as the duo combined to form a solid defensive bedrock for the Leesiders’ title challenge. The Wexford native won the Premier Division Player of the Month award for May, scored six league goals in 30 appearances for Cork City and made his competitive debut for the Republic of Ireland under-21s (as a substitute v Azerbaijan in September) in what was ultimately a hugely successful season for the former Carlow IT student. (Tom O'Connor)

 

Midfielders

 

Conor McCormack

 

The 27-year-old certainly had a season to remember for City as he helped the Leesiders to a League and FAI Cup double. The Carlingford native swapped the Brandywell for Turner's Cross and proved to be a vital cog in City’s Starting XI. McCormack played a starring role with a series commanding influential performances in the middle of the park in the league, both cups and the Europa League. Since his surprising omission from the PFAI Team of Year, McCormack has penned a new two-year deal at the Cross which will keep him there until the end of the 2019 season. (Andrew Dempsey)

 

Patrick McEleney

 

The ex-Derry City man signed for the Lilyhites in 2015. In his two years at the club he notched up 49 appearances and scored 13 goals. He was an integral part of the Dundalk team that ran Cork City close to the title. His ability on the ball saw him receive no fewer than four nominations for the Soccer Republic goal of the season. (Aaron Cawley)

 

Gearoid Morrissey

 

The dynamic 26 year old midfielder was central to Cork’s success last year. He scored six league goals as well as providing energetic yet composed performances throughout the campaign to ensure league silverware would be returning to the club for the first time since the 2011 First Division title – a squad Morrissey was also part of. The Cork native was capped at under-17 and under-19 level by Ireland. He spent time at Cambridge United in 2016 before returning to Leeside in December of that year to become a focal member of John Caulfield’s FAI Cup winning side of 2016. (Tom O'Connor)

 

Forwards

 

David McMillan

 

Following on from his scoring exploits last season, the former UCD frontman continued to find the net in 2017, recording a personal best haul of 16 league goals. However, it’s more than goals that the former Sligo Rovers striker brought to Dundalk’s play, pressurising defenders throughout and always willing to drop back to help his own defence. McMillan’s phenomenal work rate complements his uncanny ability to find space in the opposition penalty area. His form domestically and in Europe earned him a move to Scottish Premiership side St Johnstone in December. (Tom O'Connor)

 

Sean Maguire

 

If one player deserves to be in the league of Ireland team of the year it’s Maguire. His goals last season were the catalyst for Cork to win the league. Such was his impact on the league his still finished as the leagues top scorer after his move to Preston last summer. (Aaron Cawley)

 

Dinny Corcoran

 

Fans of Bohemians needed no introduction to their new striker when he signed up with Keith Long’s men at the start of the 2017 season as it began his third period at the Dalymount Park outfit.

The previous two sojourns had seen Portrane-born Corcoran net a total of eight league goals in 33 appearances. However, in 2017 he scored almost double that figure for the Gypsies, netting 15 times in the league including a winning brace against both St Patrick’s Athletic and Bray Wanderers. (Tom O'Connor)

 

Manager of the Year: Keith Long

 

Two defeats in their opening two games – at home to Derry City and away to bitter rivals Shamrock Rovers – and it was beginning to look like a torrid season in store for Keith Long and Bohemians, A remarkable, Dinny Corcoran-inspired comeback a week later against Bray Wanderers, however, and the Gypsies were motoring. Corcoran's subsequent injury exposed the scarcity of goals in the squad but Long persevered. Bohs went on to pip Bray to fifth place – becoming the first side to beat Cork City on the way – just four points off a European spot. John Caulfield enjoyed unprecedented success at Cork City but what Long did with one of the league's smallest budgets was remarkable. (Dave Donnelly)

 

Player of the Year: Sean Maguire

 

The stats speak for themselves: Maguire departed Cork City as the league's top scorer on 20 goals at the end of July with 11 games remaining – by the time the league finished up in late October, he remained top scorer by some distance. The Kilkenny man's influence upon City's remarkable 22-game unbeaten run, including 11 successive victories at the start of the season, cannot be underestimated as he proved himself the most complete all-round striker to grace the league in more than a decade. It was little surprise that he hit the ground running with Preston North End and by October had earned his first international cap – the only pity is he wasn't afforded the chance earlier. (Dave Donnelly)

 

Young Player of the Year: Trevor Clarke

 

The Neilstown flyer has been a constant source of transfer speculation in his two years with the Hoops as he's earned rave reviews for his performances at full back and on the wing since being handed his debut by Pat Fenlon. Scouts from Premier League clubs have been regular attendees at Tallaght Stadium, so much so that the Hoops handed him a three-year contract to safeguard his potential. His frightening pace and tenacious nature making him a feared opponent at both ends of the pitch, though his tally of just three league goals is something he'll look for improvement in next season. (Dave Donnelly)

 

First Division Player of the Year: Marty Waters

 

Having swapped the glitz and glamour of the Premier Division for the humbler surroundings of the First Division, Cabinteely star Kieran Marty Waters took to his new level like duck to water. Making 28 league appearances and scoring 15 goals for Cabo, Waters proved to be an inspired signing by Pat Devlin as the former Shamrock Rovers star played a pivotal role in the South Dubliners record-breaking season in the League of Ireland. Having been edged out by UCD hitman Georgie Kelly in the goal scoring charts by a mere two goals, he has since been voted by his peers as the best player in the division. The 27-year-old has since penned a new deal with his former schoolboy club which will keep him at Stradbrook for another season at least. (Andrew Dempsey)

 

International Player of the Year: James McClean

 

The Derry Boy Jimmy Mac had a fantastic year for the Boys in Green as the tenacious wide player played a starring role in Martin O’Neill’s side as they were ultimately left heartbroken after a disastrous play-off second leg defeat to Denmark at the Aviva Stadium. However, it will be the efforts of the West Bromwich Albion midfielder that will be most fondly remembered by the Green Army. Who can forget that sumptuous strike in Cardiff which sent the whole country into a state of delirium? As it happens, that wasn’t the former Derry City man’s only contribution to the cause as he also led from the front in what was a highly charged and emotional clash between the Republic of Ireland and Wales at the Aviva Stadium, which was played just days after the tragic passing of his former teammate at the Brandywell, Ryan McBride. Racking up numerous man of the match awards, and captaining his country for the first time in a friendly clash against Mexico in the USA, James McClean is most certainly a very deserving winner of this award. (Andrew Dempsey)