Belfast Telegraph

Crusaders celebrate a hat-trick as Burns takes top player prize

By Stuart McKinley

Premiership champions Crusaders weren't able to clinch the Irish Cup to make it a double-winning season on the pitch, but they have won a treble off it at the NI Football League Awards.

The Seaview side walked off with the two big prizes on a gala night at Belfast City Hall where Northern Ireland's heroes of the past and present had their achievements recognised.

The players who represented Northern Ireland at the 1986 World Cup finals in Mexico were welcomed, with one member, full-back Mal Donaghy, inducted into the Hall of Fame, while current boss Michael O'Neill, who will lead his country to their first major finals since that adventure 30 years ago, was named as International Personality of the Year ahead of his players.

Crues boss Stephen Baxter took the Manager of the Year honour, while defender Billy Joe Burns followed up his Castlereagh Glentoran Supporters Club Ulster Player of the Year success by winning the Danske Bank Player of the Year award.

And there was a special award for one of their fans, life-long supporter Billy Heaslip honoured with a merit award for providing commentary at matches for his son Graeme, who is blind.

Burns said: "It's a great honour to win this award. I'm delighted to be picking this up and after winning the league this makes it a really great season both for me personally and the club."

On top of that, the Team of the Year was also dominated by Crusaders players, with six of their title-winning squad selected. Burns and fellow defenders Colin Coates and Craig McClean were named alongside midfielder Matthew Snoddy, wing ace Paul Heatley and striker Jordan Owens.

Glenavon goalkeeper Jonny Tuffey achieved a double of his own by being named in the Team of the Year, as well as winning the Goalkeeper of the Year prize.

Linfield trio Jimmy Callacher, Aaron Burns and Andy Waterworth, plus Glenavon winger Andy Hall, made up the all-star XI.

Irish Cup winners Glenavon also added the Young Player of the Year prize, which was won by Joel Cooper.

Harryville Homers' double knockout success, in winning the County Antrim Junior Shield and Irish FA Junior Cup, saw them named as the outstanding non-senior Team of the Year.

Former Portadown manager Ronnie McFall, who resigned in March after 29 years in charge at Shamrock Park, was also given a Hall of Fame award.

Where the awards went

Danske Bank Footballer of the Year: Billy Joe Burns (Crusaders)

Epoch Young Player of Year: Joel Cooper (Glenavon)

Epoch Manager of the Year: Stephen Baxter (Crusaders)

UHLsport Goalkeeper of the Year: Jonny Tuffey (Glenavon)

Travel Solutions International Personality of Year: Michael O’Neill

Belleek Championship Player of Year: Scott Davidson (H & W Welders)

Belleek Non-senior Team of Year (for Jimmy Dubois Memorial Shield): Harryville Homers

Team of Season: Jonny Tuffey, BJ Burns, Colin Coates. Jimmy Callacher, Craig McClean, Andy Hall, Aaron Burns, Matthew Snoddy, Paul Heatley, Jordan Owens, Andy Waterworth

Belleek Goal of the Season: David Cushley (Ballymena United v Linfield in December)

Merit Award: Billy Heslip, Crusaders fan who commentates at matches for his blind son, Graham.

Dr Malcolm Brodie Hall of Fame inductees: Mal Donaghy and Ronnie McFall.

Belfast Telegraph


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