Kevin Braniff was the toast of his Irish League colleagues last night as the Portadown star picked up the Umbro Player of the Year for 2011.
And, while the Ports will chase league title and Irish Cup success in the New Year, they've already finished 2011 with a prize double after manager Ronnie McFall's 25th anniversary in charge of the club was recognised with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Umbro's annual gala dinner, held in the Ramada Hotel, Shaw's Bridge, was attended by players and other dignatries from Northern Ireland football, as well as Southampton legend and former England international Matthew Le Tissier, who presented ex-Millwall man Braniff with his award.
So far this season, Braniff has netted 14 goals for the Ports and been inspirational in the Shamrock Park side's title challenge. His contribution as McFall's men began 2011 with a lengthy winning run wasn't forgotten either.
Regarded as one of the best, if not the best, players in the local game, Braniff's award is richly deserved and he is the second Portadown player to claim the award, with Gary Hamilton a previous winner during his days at Shamrock Park.
“It's very pleasing to pick up this award, particularly when you look at the other players in the running for it,” said Braniff.
“Over the years it's become more and more prestigious and seeing the names that are already on the trophy, it's great to have my own name added to the list of winners.”
The Northern Ireland international pipped a number of the domestic game's top players to the prize, with many leading names among those who are sponsored by leading sportswear brand Umbro.
Those include his Portadown strike partner Matthew Tipton — who has been a prolific goal-getter since he came into the Carling Premiership back in January — Football Writers’ Association double Player of the Year winner Stuart Dallas and both Big Two captains, Colin Nixon and Michael Gault.
Ex-Ports hitman Gary McCutcheon took the prize for the Umbro top goalscorer of 2011, thanks to the 17 league goals he has scored so far this season.
The award for McFall also acknowledged his playing days in the Irish League and with Dundee United in Scotland, as well as his time as manager of Glentoran.
William Murphy's long and success-filled spell with Linfield won him a Special Merit Award. The 37-year-old defender has been a key man in the Blues' run of league title and Irish Cup double victories in the last six seasons. The ex-Ards man, however, insists that the award should not suggest he is set for retirement.
Newington YC picked up the Junior Team of the Year award for 2011. They won a third successive Amateur League title under Eamon McCarthy and the club is also looking forward to Wednesday's Irish Cup fifth round draw, when they will be one of four Amateur League clubs in the last 32.