14 January, 2012

O'Neill wins top sports writer's prize whilst Eoin Hand gains deserved Special Merit Award:

TOP AWARD:  New Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill (left)
            Former Shamrock Rovers' manager Michael O'Neill has been named the Airtricity/Soccer Writers Association of Ireland (SWAI) Manager of 2011 in recognition of his achievements with the Dublin club in retaining the league title and leading the club to become the first Irish club to reach the Group stages of a major European competition.
            The new Northern Ireland manager saw off competition from Sligo boss Paul Cook and midfielder Joseph Ndo, Cork boss Tommy Dunne and Eamon Zayed, who has just moved from Derry City to an Iranian club.
            Derry's Gerard Doherty won the goalkeeper of the year award ahead of Brendan Clarke and Gary Rogers.  His former manager Stephen Kenny wanted to take him to Shamrock Rovers but the custodian is staying in his native city, where pre-season training has already started.
SPECIAL MERIT AWARD: Former Ireland manager Eoin Hand
           Eoin Hand received a Special Merit  "lifetime achievement"  type award.  As one of the unluckiest managers ever in world football (being denied World Cup qualification - 1982 - on goal difference from a wrongly allowed goal in the last minute of qualification from a group containing Holland, Belgium and France); Hand had a number of rough years but is now involved in a number of football related projects.  Foremost amongst those projects is helping Irish youngsters who have not gotten contracts renewed with clubs abroad and are in danger of being left on the "scrapheap."  He also liaises with young players who have gone over to England along with work in football media.
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