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Northern Ireland Football Writers Awards: Linfield toast more trophy success

Healy, Mulgrew, Smyth and Carroll honoured after sparkling season

By Graham Luney

Linfield finished a remarkable 2016-2017 season with three trophies but they went one better at last night's glittering bash at the Crowne Plaza Belfast when Northern Ireland's football writers distributed their awards.

After clinching the County Antrim Shield, Gibson Cup and Tennent's Irish Cup in sparkling style, it was no surprise that David Healy's side dominated the prizes, making it a Blue Monday to remember.

Healy lifted the Manager of the Year gong, while his Captain Marvel Jamie Mulgrew landed the top player prize, adding that personal accolade to the Ulster Footballer of the Year award he netted.

And the newly-crowned Danske Bank Premiership champions made it another terrific treble when winger Paul Smyth was named Belleek Young Player of the Year.

But the Linfield prizes didn't stop there as goalkeeper Roy Carroll, who was nominated for Player of the Year, picked up the Uhlsport NIFWA Goalkeeper of the Year award, edging out Coleraine's Chris Johns and Jonny Tuffey of Glenavon.

An unsung hero is hailed at the annual ceremony, and this year's Merit Award winner also came from the Windsor Park ranks as long-serving Blues' loyal backroom staff member Andy Kerr MBE was honoured.

Kerr has given an incredible 50 years of service to the club, a lifelong dedication that has earned him huge respect right across the Irish League family.

Northern Ireland's record goalscorer Healy was crowned top boss, pipping Ballymena United's David Jeffrey and Coleraine's Oran Kearney to the gong.

After losing last season's County Antrim Shield final and Irish Cup final, as well as finishing runner-up in the league, Healy's managerial skills were questioned so victory really did taste sweet this campaign for the Killyleagh man.

The last time the Blues lifted the Shield, league title and Irish Cup in one season was back in 2006, but under Healy's persuasive powers the players found something within themselves to get across the line in major competitions.

"All the players have been brilliant," said Healy. "I could go through the whole team. The lads were questioned and people said they didn't have the bottle but they showed they did.

"We let ourselves down last year but this season we turned and I'm proud of all of them."

What Healy needed in his dressing room were leaders, men who were ready for war, and look no further than his inspirational skipper Mulgrew, who led from the front.

Mulgrew arguably played some of the best football of his career as Linfield's driving force and heartbeat. He is the best midfielder in the league and was rightly crowned the best player in the league.

But the Blues didn't have it all their own way last night as Cliftonville Ladies' Marissa Callaghan netted the NIFL Women's Personality of The Year, seeing off a challenge from Kirsty McGuinness of Linfield Ladies and Crusaders Strikers' Julie Nelson.

And Belleek Non-Senior Team of the Year was Limavady United, pipping Linfield Swifts and Crumlin Star to the prize.

Glentoran new boy John McGuigan netted the Belleek NIFWA Championship Player of the Year for his heroics with Warrenpoint Town, edging out Corey McMullan of Ballyclare Comrades, who has also joined the Glens, and Institute's Stephen O'Donnell.

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