Belfast Telegraph

Coleraine, Crusaders and Cliftonville players shortlisted for Ulster Footballer of the Year award

Coleraine, Crusaders and Cliftonville all have players shortlisted for the Ulster Footballer of the Year award.

The coveted accolade, which is awarded by the Castlereagh Glentoran Supporters' Club, is separate to the Northern Ireland Football Writers' prize. It is the oldest of the two, presented since the 1950/51 season. Former winners include Wilbur Cush and Jackie Milburn and in recent years Glenn Ferguson and Liam Boyce.

Coleraine trio Jamie McGonigle, Chris Johns, and Stephen O'Donnell have been nominated, as have Cliftonville's Joe Gormley and Crusaders' Billy Joe Burns and Gavin Whyte.

Johns has been nominated after keeping 18 clean sheets in all competitions so far this term. The 22-year-old is in his third season as Coleraine's number one, having signed in January 2016.

The former Northern Ireland U21 international spent four years with Southampton before returning home in 2015 and playing briefly for Bangor before being snapped up by Premiership Coleraine.

Chris, the son of former Ireland rugby international Paddy Johns, signed a contract extension at the Showgrounds earlier this season.

Johns' Coleraine team-mate McGonigle, 22, has scored 12 Premiership goals so far this term, closing in on his tally of 15 from last season.

Defender Stephen O'Donnell has also earned a nomination. The defender stepped up to the top tier of Northern Irish football this season, joining from Institute last summer. The 25-year-old has looked at home in a side challenging for the title and looks assured in defence but also carries a scoring threat, netting three league goals.

Cliftonville striker Gormley, who won the title after the 13/14 season, is the joint top scorer in the league so far this season with 18 goals. The 28-year-old is enjoying his first season back in the Irish League after returning from a spell in League One with Peterbrough United.

BJ Burns has also won the award once before, at the end of Crusaders' title-winning 15/16 season. He has started all of Crusaders' 31 Premiership game so far this season, scoring five goals in the process. He signed for Crusaders in the summer of 2014 and has only missed out on the starting line-up in four league games since his arrival at Seaview.

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