Picking a League of Ireland Team of the Year is always a little bit of guesswork. Nobody who attempts one of these has watched every game so some of it is based on reputation and hearsay. That’s not to suggest this team was put together without any thought, but just know that your team is as valid as ours. Feel free to let us know which selections and omissions are disgraceful though. We’re going with a 3-5-2 formation. We start, of course, with the keeper
Goalkeeper – Nathan Shepperd (Dundalk)
The young Welshman signed for Dundalk before the season without having made a senior appearance but took no time in establishing himself as a keeper to watch in our league. Shepperd made some spectacular saves throughout the season and just edged the venerable Alan Mannus for this spot. If only the second half of the season counted, Mannus probably gets the picked. If only the first half is counted, Ed McGinty and Joseph Anang would have been in contention, but we have to count the whole season and Shepperd was consistently good throughout.
Centre back – Joe Redmond (St Patrick’s Athletic)
The only player who played every minute of the league season, Redmond belied his young age (starting both games for Ireland under 21s in the play offs with Israel) to become team captain and his leadership skills were clear to see. An exceptional defender, he’s attracted cross channel attention again.
— SSE Airtricity League (@SSEAirtricityLg) May 20, 2022
Centre back – Mark Connolly (Dundalk/Derry City)
Connolly was a huge part of Dundalk’s miserly defence for the first half of the season while on loan from Dundee United. The experienced Clones-native settled Derry’s defence when signing permanently in the summer and should be in contention for all the individual awards too.
Centre back – Lee Grace (Shamrock Rovers)
This might be a team award. Rovers have the best defence in the league but rotate through centre halves and they’re all pretty damn good. Roberto Lopes is probably the best of them, but he missed a fair bit of the season. No slight on Grace, who continues to be one of the best defenders in the league for several years now and gets our vote ahead of Hoare.
Right wing back – Ronan Boyce (Derry City)
Boyce is a bit of an unsung hero for Derry and looks equally at home defending as attacking. Barry Cotter had a sensational finish to the season for St Pats but couldn’t dislodge Ronan Finn for this spot for Rovers. Finn ahead of Boyce isn’t that hard an argument to make here.
Left wing back – Andy Lyons (Shamrock Rovers)
No decision is easier than picking Andy Lyons for left wing back. Joining from Bohs in pre-season, and off to Blackpool in January, right footed Lyons showed his versatility and popped up with crucial goals all year. Another who’ll contend for POTY honours.
Becoming a Lyon pic.twitter.com/m0pYQIF1Nc
— Irish Footy Vids (@IrishFootyVids) September 12, 2022
Midfield – Gary O’Neill (Shamrock Rovers)
Not the flashiest of midfielders in the league but O’Neill is ultra-dependable and a main stay in the Champion’s engine room. With an exceptional work rate, he rarely makes a mistake.
Midfield – Will Patching (Derry City)
Patching’s propensity to score eye-catching goals certainly lends itself to these team of the year selections but scoring double figures from midfield can’t be seen as a bad thing. His team-mate Cameron Dummigan has fair claims on a spot in this team too.
Will Patching 🤝 Free-kick goals
Derry City take the lead on fifteen minutes following a strong start to the game@derrycityfc 1-0 @sligorovers
Watch live 📺 | https://t.co/ZojRVr6OTp#LOI | #LOITV pic.twitter.com/R1jijCDxKt
— SSE Airtricity League (@SSEAirtricityLg) September 13, 2022
Midfield – Dylan Watt (Shamrock Rovers)
Watts has tailed off a little towards the end of the season but for 6 months he was by far the best midfielder in the league. Jack Byrne and Chris Forrester are probably the two best midfielders in the league, but both have had inconsistent seasons.
Forward – Aidan Keena (Sligo Rovers)
The best striker in the league this year finished with 18 league goals and had a spectacular European run in the summer too. His form has already led to speculation he could be off, but Sligo Rovers extended his contract in mid-summer so they should at least be fairly compensated if he does move
— Sligo Rovers (@sligorovers) October 22, 2022
Forward – Rory Gaffney (Shamrock Rovers)
Gaffney’s appearance in the PFAI Team of the Year last year surprised some fans online but his non-stop work rate is clearly appreciated by his fellow pros and fans of Shamrock Rovers too. He’ll never trouble the top scoring charts, but centre halves here hate playing against him. Pat Hoban, if he stayed fit, could have claimed one of these striker roles as he combines that work rate with goals.
— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) October 30, 2022
That’s the 11, and the reasons why they were chosen. 6 for the champions feels about right. No wide attackers were really considered but Shane Farrell of Shels impressed late on. Player of the Year is probably between Gaffney, Lyons and Connolly. We’ll have our own awards article out soon enough where you can read which way we went on that one.