The 2013 Airtricity League season is over for the majority of clubs. We still have the promotion/relegation play off and the FAI Cup Final to come but everyone else is done. So that means it's time to give out the first annual Balls.ie Airtricity League awards. Drum roll please!
1) Goal of the Season.
Daryl Horgan's run and chip for Cork City against Drogheda in June would win Goal of the Season in pretty much any league in the world. Greg Bolger's cracker against Sligo on the day St Pats clinched the league got some votes from those who think context and importance should be included
2) The Haircut of the Year
Richie Towell's hair defies definition. He may well win Player of the Year awards, but he won't win them with every single vote like he did this award.
3) The Club Tweets Of The Year
We had to split this award into 3 separate such was the quality and variety of tweets from official club accounts this season,
3a The "We're So Happy We Don't Care What You Think" Award
The Scenes! ? #wearestayingup @ShamrockRovers can we play you every week?
— Bohemian FC (@bfcdublin) August 16, 2013
Bohs twitter was pretty happy that a 1-0 win over Rovers gave them hope they could stay up. In the end they proved correct. Bohs missed the play off by 2 points. They earned 5 points against Rovers this year with Rovers being the only team not to beat them.
3b The "I Meant To Use My Private Account But I'm Really Speaking For All Bitter Fans" Award - joint winners!
As Mervue United were thumping Wexford Youths, Wexford fans could at least console themselves that the result helped keep local rivals Waterford out of the play offs.
Shels' twitter was forced to apologise for this barb at Sligo Rovers ahead of their European tie with Molde
3c The "WTF!?!" Award
4) The "Alan Kelly Is Off To The MLS and We're Left With These" Refereeing Decision Of The Year
Tough competition this year and many worthy nominees. Loads of votes in Dundalk for Anthony Buttimer after the Stephen Kenny campaigned for him. Tom Connolly got votes for awarding a penalty to St Pats when Christy Fagan handled it too. Neil Doyle won in the end for his penalty award against Bohemians when Andy Mulligan kicked the ball into his own face.
5) The Derek Zoolander Award
St Pats full back Ger O'Brien was asked to attend pretty much every media event on behalf of his club. His Blue Steel made him the natural choice.
6) The "Jonathon Woodgate to Real Madrid" Signing of the Year
In the summer transfer window Eamon Zayed was on his back to the League of Ireland. He was close to signing for Sligo Rovers but joined Trevor Croly's Shamrock Rovers instead. Rumoured to be among the highest paid players in the league, Zayed has started 3 games and scored 1 goal since. His arrival forced Ciaran Kilduff out on loan to Cork City. Kilduff, who had scored twice for Rovers, scored 11 in 14 games for Cork and is now among the hottest commodities in the league. In a further twist, Kilduff's arrival on Leeside allowed Daryl Kavanagh to re-join St Pats and he played an important role in their title run-in. That's sure to annoy Croly who famously replied with "we always knew he'd score goals" when asked by TV about Kilduff's Cork form.
7) The Teams of the Year
We've split the Premier Division teams of the Year into 2 based on League position. Hard for the lads playing in mid-table to stand out when compared to those challenging
7a The Top 4 Team Of The Year
O'Brien (Pats) Kenna (Pats) Peers (Sligo) Bermingham (Pats)
Towell (Dundalk) Bolger (Pats) Brennan (Pats)
Hoban (Dundalk) Patterson (Derry) Cretaro (Sligo)
7b The Best of the Rest Team Of The Year
Kelly (Limerick) Oji (Limerick) Prendergast (Drogheda) Byrne (Bohs)
Duggan (Cork) O'Conor (Drogheda) McCabe (Rovers)
O'Brien (Drogheda) Kilduff (Cork) Horgan (Cork)
8) Comeback of the Year
There was no greater comeback in LOI circles this year than flares re-establishing themselves at the heart of fan displays. Pats fans used them to help celebrate the title but they weren't alone. Shamrock Rovers had their own party in Inchicore as they knocked Pats out of the cup and Dundalk used so many flares the club appealed to fans to stop twice. The 2nd statement came shortly after they traveled to Inchicore and let off numerous flares, despite losing the game 0-2. Stephen Kenny was 2nd in this voting.
9) The "That Escalated Quickly" Twitter War Of The Year.
With an honorable mention for Brian Shortall and Tiarnan Mulvenna discussing Shortall's red card, we had a very popular winner with RTE pundit Pat Morley taking on all-comers on the subject of Jason Byrne's goal record compared to his own.
10) The "Mr Motivator" Poster Of The Year
Sean O'Connor's gesture to Pats fans after he was sent off during Pats 4-0 win in Tallaght wasn't forgotten by Pats fans (and players) who had a year-long social media battle with their ex-player.
11) The "Greatest League in the World" viral story of the year.
Sure we had Bunk from the Wire professing his love for Pats (and celebrating the league win). We had Patrick McEleney versus the Trabzonspor fan. We had the wonderful Jack Cummins and Anto Flood pictures. None of them even come close to the greatness of Stephen Kenny's jumper going missing.
12) The Cheek of the Year Award
Sligo Rovers won their first 8 games of the league season. In the 9th they faced St Pats who took a first half lead. With a couple of minutes left, Pats were awarded a penalty. Killian Brennan decided to be cheeky.
13) The Prettiest Picture of the Year
Dennis Behan's late winner for Cork was immortalised as a rainbow arced over Dalymount Park.
14) The "Oh My God We Have Months Of This Left" Award
The Galway United/Mervue United/Salthill Devon/GUST/Galway FA mess. We mentioned it our pre-season preview and it rared its ugly head when Mervue threatened to win promotion.. Will it be finished in time for next season? Nobody can give you an honest answer there
15) The "Only Award That Matters" Award
St Patrick's Athletic - 2013 Airtricity League Champions!