It’s never dull in domestic game

It was a season where Sligo exploded with joy after ending a 35-year wait for the title, Shamrock Rovers relinquished their crown without a whimper and Drogheda United exceeded all expectations.

Goals fitting of any league around the world were scored on a monthly basis, and off the field there were further problems.

All in all, it has been another roller coaster season in the domestic game.

It’s never easy picking a team of the season, mainly because there are several who should justifiably be disappointed by missing out.

There’s likely to be much disagreement over the choices below but, cramming as much as possible in, here are Alan Smith’s 2012 end-of-season awards:

GOAL OF THE YEAR

— Mark Griffin (Dundalk)

Griffin became a YouTube hit and was also recognised by Uefa for his stunning solo effort away to Drogheda. Think Dennis Bergkamp’s flick against Newcastle and imagine it happening twice. That will give you an idea of this moment of brilliant. After such great work to get into a shooting position, the finish was also one to be admired.

Honourable mentions for Chris Forrester’s delightful chip for St Pat’s at home to Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians’ Evan McMillan’s piledriver against Cork City.

MANAGER OF THE YEAR

— Mick Cooke (Drogheda United)

Ian Baraclough would, most years, be a dead cert for this but a counter-argument is that the bulk of the squad was already in place when he replaced Paul Cook days before the season kicked-off. Instead, the nod should go to Cooke. Tipped by some as relegation strugglers, Cooke guided Drogs to not only the Europa League but the EA Sports Cup. He also brought the best out of a renewed Declan O’Brien.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

— Gavin Peers (Sligo Rovers)

While the goals of Danny North, prior to his injury, and Mark Quigley earned much of the plaudits in the West, it’s wrong to ignore Rovers’ defensive strengths and while, in truth, they should come as a pair, Peers gets the nod over his central defensive side-kick Jason McGuinness for a magnificent season. Aside from keeping the opposition locked out, Peers showed once again that he’s also a huge goalscoring threat from set-pieces.

YOUNG PLAYER OF THE YEAR

— Stephen McLaughlin (Derry City)

The Candystripes’ league campaign may have been disappointing, but one man who constantly stood out was Stephen McLaughlin. It’s hard not to make James McClean comparisons, with the 22-year-old hotly tipped to follow in the Sunderland man’s footsteps and eventually make the move to England.

GAME OF THE YEAR

— Sligo Rovers 3 St Patrick’s Athletic 2, Sunday, October 14

An obvious choice, but the drama witnessed at the Showgrounds when Mark Quigley slotted home a last-minute penalty to seal the title for Sligo at home to Pat’s spurned an incredible level of raw emotion. Huge crowds, five goals, sendings-off and some great football. It’s just a pity every game can’t reach those heights.

LOW POINT OF THE YEAR

— Monaghan United’s demise

A year can’t go by without some sort of financial crisis. This year it was the turn of Monaghan, who vacated their position at the foot of the table without warning, or even letting those in charge of the league know. It was made all the worse by claims from players that they found out through social media.

TEAM OF THE YEAR

Gary Rogers (Sligo Rovers); Ger O’Brien (St Pat’s), Jason McGuinness (Sligo), Gavin Peers (Sligo), Ian Bermingham (St Pat’s); Ronan Finn (Shamrock Rovers), Danny Ventre (Sligo), Gavin Brennan (Drogheda United); Mark Quigley (Sligo), Danny North (Sligo), Declan O’Brien (Drogheda).

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