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NI Football Writers Awards: Linfield hoping to let good times roll

 

By Graham Luney

The great and the good of Irish League football will gather at the Crowne Plaza Belfast tonight to see who will net the end of season awards from Northern Ireland's writers.

After an incredible season which saw Linfield grasp three trophies - the County Antrim Shield, league title and Tennent's Irish Cup - there could well be more Blues celebrations this evening.

Manager David Healy and his men have no fewer than nine nominees across seven categories and the Player of the Year gong will certainly be heading in the direction of Windsor Park with Roy Carroll, Stephen Lowry and Jamie Mulgrew nominated for that prestigious prize.

Skipper Mulgrew is going for a personal double after he landed the Ulster Footballer of the Year award, hosted by the Castlereagh Glentoran Supporters' Club.

Healy is in the running for Manager of the Year, though he faces competition from former Linfield favourites Oran Kearney and David Jeffrey.

Kearney steered the Bannsiders to a third-place finish in the Premiership and the Irish Cup final, securing a Europa League qualifying spot, a fitting reward for their stunning form since January. Jeffrey was dancing a jig of delight at the Ballymena Showgrounds on Friday night after his Sky Blues side beat Glenavon to secure Europa League action and the £200,000 that comes with it.

United also lifted the League Cup this season, their first major trophy in 28 years, and celebrated a top-four finish for the first time since 1981.

The Linfield party could kick off again if Paul Smyth is crowned Young Player of the Year, though Coleraine duo Jamie McGonigle and Lyndon Kane are also in the running.

Kane has just agreed a new three-year deal with the Bannsiders, much to the delight of Kearney, who said: "Lyndon is Mr Consistency for us, I'm over the moon that he has agreed this extension. He is a key player for us with the qualities he possesses. We want to build the club and it has been key to get the young players tied up."

This season's NIFWA awards ceremony also sees the introduction of the Women's Personality of the Year prize, where Linfield's Kirsty McGuinness, Marissa Callaghan (Cliftonville Ladies) and Julie Nelson (Crusaders Strikers) are competing for the gong.

Someone special will be inducted into the Dr Malcolm Brodie Hall of Fame and there will also be an unsung hero award as well, while Gareth McAuley, Steven Davis and Jonny Evans will battle for the International Personality of the Year award.

Linfield have six players in the Team of the Season which lines up as Roy Carroll (Linfield), Lyndon Kane (Coleraine), Howard Beverland (Crusaders), Jimmy Callacher (Linfield), Levi Ives (Cliftonville), Paul Smyth (Linfield), Jamie Mulgrew (Linfield), Stephen Lowry (Linfield), Paul Heatley (Crusaders), Andrew Waterworth (Linfield) and Andrew Mitchell (Dungannon Swifts).

Meanwhile, striker Michael McLellan has left Linfield and agreed to join Ards.

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