Brendan Graham reports from RTE Studios
It was a night of celebration and recognition last night at the FAI International Awards with internationals, Airtricity League players and talented college players all rightly rewarded for their form last season.
Brighton defender Shane Duffy and West Ham striker Leanne Kiernan were honoured with the two Senior Player of the Year awards.
Having represented Northern Ireland at underage level, Duffy decided to switch allegiances and made his debut for the Ireland senior team in 2014 against Costa Rica. He was part of the squad that travelled to Euro 2016 and it is the second year in succession he has picked up the senior award as reward for his commanding performances and leadership he has shown at the heart of the Ireland defence.
Leanne Kiernan started out in the Women’s National League in Ireland and played with Dublin club Shelbourne for three and a half years before securing a move to West Ham.
Her highlights at Shelboune include playing Champions League football in 2017 and also scoring a hat-trick in the FAI Cup final the previous year against Wexford Youths.
During her three and a half year stint with the club Kiernan scored thirty seven league goals before making her move across the water to join West Ham.
On the international front, the Cavan native made her senior competitive debut towards the end of 2016 and scored the winner in the match against the Basque Country. Since then Kiernan has pulled on the green jersey at senior level on fifteen occasions scoring five goals in that time.
At underage level there were plenty of awards to recognise the top performers over the course of 2018 as well.
Portsmouth striker Ronan Curtis picked up the U21 Player of the Year to cap off a real standout year for the 22-year-old. Having signed for League One side Portsmouth from Derry City at the start of this season things have taken off quickly for the striker.
Since scoring two goals in just his second game for the club against Blackpool the striker hasn’t looked back and has gone on to make thirty four league appearances so far in his first season scoring eleven goals.
Having been included in Mick McCarthy’s provisional squad for the upcoming European qualifiers against Gibraltar and Georgia, Curtis suffered a freak finger injury when a strong wind caused the car door to slam shut with his finger caught in the middle. That has now ruled him out of the upcoming games but he is determined to get himself back in contention for the qualifiers in June.
“It’s unfortunate timing and on the week of international duty too,” said Curtis shortly after picking up his award.
“I’m a bit gutted that I can’t go away with the lads for the week but these things happen and maybe next time I get a call up in June and I can repay the favour, and play well for the lads.
“It’s all about recovery now. I will get back and work hard in the gym at Portsmouth, keep the head down and hopefully we’ll get back soon.”
Another young Irish player who has managed to get everyone around the country talking with his recent performances is 17-year-old Tottenham striker Troy Parrott.
Having played his schoolboy football in Dublin, Parrott made the move to London and joined Spurs in 2018 as a sixteen-year-old. Since then he has earned rave reviews for the club in the UEFA Youth League standing out against the likes of Inter Milan and Barcelona and also being compared in a positive way to striker Harry Kane.
This season the youngster has received plenty of praise from senior manager Mauricio Pochettino and was also rewarded with his first professional contract with the club on his 17th birthday back in February.
Having excelled in the green jersey in recent years with the U17 and U19 sides at major tournaments, Ireland U21 manager has included Parrott in his first competitive Ireland squad for Sunday’s qualifier against Luxembourg. Last night at the awards he picked up the U16 Irish Player of the Year award for 2018.
Still recovering from an injury, the 17-year-old is doing his best to get back to full fitness as quick as possible and was delighted to be recognised last night.
“I’m really happy with the award. Last year I won U15s and this year I’ve won U16s so I’m really happy with that.
“I just try and keep my head down and constantly improve as a player. You get rewards for improving and doing well.
“It’s a real honour to get called up to 21’s this week as well. To get called up at any age is such an honour and it’ something I’m really looking forward to.”
There was history made at the awards last night as well with former goalkeeper and record appearance holder with the women’s national team Emma Byrne being inducted into the FAI Hall of Fame, becoming the first women to do so.
Former defender and fan favourite Richard Dunne was honoured with the same Hall of Fame induction on the night.
29th 'Three' FAI International Awards
Senior Men's International
Senior Women’s International
Goal Of The Year
Aiden O’Brien (Men’s Senior v Poland)
Anselmo Garcia McNulty
Eoin Hayes (Newmarket Celtic)
Darragh Reynor (Maynooth University Town)
Football For All
Nathalie O’Brien (Irish Women’s Deaf Futsal)
Colleges & Universities
Ali Regbha (Chanel College, Coolock, Dublin)
SSE Airtricity League
Chris Shields (Dundalk)
Hall of Fame
Richard Dunne / Emma Byrne