Joe Gormley delight as champions claim top two annual awards

Tommy Breslin and Joe Gormley
Tommy Breslin and Joe Gormley

There was further silverware joy for Cliftonville on Monday night at the BT Sport Northern Ireland Football Writers’ Association annual awards dinner.

Tommy Breslin claimed the Manager of the Year trophy for the second year running, while striker Joe Gormley lifted the Player of the Year prize.

Gormley bagged 37 goals last term – breaking Cliftonville’s club record of most goals in a season.

The striker’s sublime year helped the Reds retain their Danske Bank Premiership crown, and claim the League Cup for the second year on the bounce.

It was another stellar year for the Solitude club, who retained the Gibson Cup for the first time in the club’s history.

“It is fantastic to be recognised in this way,” Gormley said.

“It was another incredible year for the club, and to win the title again was unbelievable.

“It was a little piece of history for the club to retain the Gibson Cup. It was a team effort, and when you see the quality in this side then I don’t think anyone could deny us the title.”

Gormley beat teammate Liam Boyce’s club record of most goals in a season.

The 24-year-old – who was recently named Ulster Footballer of the Year – admits eclipsing Boyce’s tally wasn’t his primary focus during Cliftonville’s title run-in.

“I didn’t really care if I broke the record or not. The main thing was lifting the league title,” he added.

“It was obviously nice breaking the record, but all I wanted was to win the league again.”

Reds boss Breslin was also toasting another memorable trophy double last season – and another Manager of the Year award.

“It is fantastic for the club to have retained the title, and it is all down to this great bunch of players,” Breslin said.

“At the end of the day they are the ones who step over the line. They are a great group to work with and they deserve their success.

“The challenge now is going on and trying to win it again. It is a massive challenge but it is one we are looking forward to.”

Meanwhile, the Young Player of the Year went to Glenavon defender Rhys Marshall.

Marshall blasted onto the Irish League landscape with his performances for the Lurgan Blues last season.

The 19-year-old help guide the Mourneview Park club to a top six finish in the Premiership, and on Saturday helped Glenavon lift the Irish Cup for the first time in 17 years.

The Championship Player of the Year went to Institute striker Michael McCrudden.

McCrudden was another star of last season, helping Stute win promotion to the Premiership.

The 22-year-old scored in the Drumahoe club’s final game of the season in a 2-0 win over Limavady United – a result that saw them finish top of the Championship.

McCrudden bagged 16 goals in total for Institute last season.

There was double celebration for Ballymena Saturday Morning League club Harryville Homers.

Fresh from the winning the Junior Cup on Monday afternoon, the Homers were awarded the Jimmy Dubois Non-Senior Team of the Year award.

Also last night long-standing Ballymena United secretary Don Stirling was presented with the NIFWA Merit award.

Don’s proud association with the Sky Blues spans 40 years after making the leap from supporter to legislator.