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Liam Beckett: Naming my Team of the Year So Far as Irish League reaches midway point has been tough

These boys are better by half, writes Liam Beckett. It’s time to cast an eye over my stars of the Premiership so far as the Irish League season reaches its midway point...

Rohan Ferguson
Rohan Ferguson

By Liam Beckett

It’s that time of the year when I take the opportunity to name my Team of the Season So Far. Although it proved to be popular, if not debatable, in past years, it’s been particularly tough this time simply because so many of the teams and their players have been surprisingly inconsistent, which makes my task that wee bit more difficult...

GK: Rohan Ferguson

A real tough shout here as I’ve been very impressed by Richard Brush at Cliftonville, but Linfield’s Rohan Ferguson gets the nod because he’s had to fill the massive gap left by big Roy Carroll and he’s done it in an admirable fashion.  

Each and every time I’ve seen this lad in action, he’s done really well. A superb shot-stopper.

RB: Conor McDermott

Another close one because I’m a big fan of Crusaders’ Billy Joe Burns and Larne’s Tomas Cosgrove, plus several other very talented right-backs, but young McDermott (below) has been a real top performer for Cliftonville in their impressive start to the season and he has really caught my eye both in defence and in attack.

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CB: Aaron Canning

Without doubt the best and most consistent central defender I’ve seen all season — and by a distance at that.  

Although extremely versatile, I’ve always felt his best position is centre-back and it’s no secret that the Coleraine defence looks a much more solid unit when this lad is at the heart of it.

Like all quality players, he is comfortable in possession and always looks to have time on the ball. This one was an easy choice for me and, in fact, he was the first name on my teamsheet.

CB: Jimmy Callacher

Another player who is consistently one of the top central defenders in the game and this season has been no different for the Linfield man.

Callacher has a good football brain with a great sense of awareness, and has the ability to smell danger without needing a shout from a team-mate — plus he chips in with more than his fair share of goals as well.

Another pretty easy choice if I’m honest.

Paddy McClean after netting the winner

LB: Paddy McClean

An outstanding addition to the Glentoran team — and yes, I know he operates in the middle!

If the truth be told, I found the left-back slot a difficult one to fill because all of the League’s top operators in the position have been so inconsistent.

So it is Paddy McClean who gets my nod at this stage because, despite more than a few raised eyebrows at his signing, this lad has risen to the challenge admirably and I’m sure he’d be adaptable enough to do the job at full-back for me.   

MID: Jamie Glackin

One of the most improved players in the Premiership and a real star performer every time I’ve watched him for Coleraine this season. 

There are lots of really good midfielders in the League but this lad has that tremendous fetch-and-carry attribute and box-to-box ability which every good team needs.

His confidence is sky high at present and it shows.

MID: Rory Hale

This lad has impressed me big- time this term.

I felt he struggled somewhat to stamp his authority last year but this season he has been most impressive.

A good user of the ball with an insatiable appetite for hard graft and work rate, Hale has never been below a seven out of 10 any time I’ve watched him this season.

Hrvoje Plum at Glentoran and Linfield’s Stephen Fallon were unlucky not to make the cut in the middle of the park. 

  MID: Ben Doherty

A blistering start to the season for young Ben, with several goals from midfield to boast as well.

Signed from Glenavon — where I felt he looked a pretty ordinary player — he has really matured at Coleraine and is currently well on his way to realising his true potential.

With as sweet a left foot as you could wish for, this lad has more than fulfilled all that was expected of him and has already become a Bannsiders fans’ favourite.  

ST: Joel Cooper

I found it something of a struggle to find a consistent left-sided midfielder so far this term but, although still not at what I feel is his brilliant best, I’ve still not seen a better wide left player than Joel Cooper.   

The Linfield ace also gives a much-needed balance to any team, with naturally gifted left-sided players not too plentiful. He creates bags of chances for others and scores a fair few himself, so an in-form Cooper is difficult to leave out of any team.

26/12/2019 Danske Bank Irish Premiership match between Crusaders and Cliftonville at Seaview Belfast. Cliftonvilles Joe Gormley celebrates at the final whistle Mandatory Credit © Inpho/Stephen Hamilton

ST: Joe Gormley

The most gifted natural prolific goalscorer in Irish League football.

It takes goals to win football matches and, over the duration of a season, Joe (left) will score more goals per chances created than any other player in the game.

Cliftonville are real title contenders this season and, with Gormley part of their strike force, who could argue with that possibility?

ST: Robbie McDaid

I’ve always rated this lad highly and, so far this season, he hasn’t disappointed.

Robbie is a natural born goalscorer who has that knack of being in the right place at exactly the right time. 

Glentoran are also genuine contenders for League title glory this season and it may well be McDaid’s goals which leads them to Gibson Cup success.

Tough task: Mick McDermott expects a difficult day

MANAGER: Mick McDermott

This was a really tough call because I’ve been so impressed by several managers this season including Paddy McLaughlin at Cliftonville and Carrick Rangers’ Niall Currie, but it’s the astute Glentoran supremo who just edges it.

With his trusted sidekick Paul Millar, Mick (left) has completely transformed a previously out of sorts east Belfast club from no-hopers into real title challengers. 

His signings have been successful and he has fast-tracked Glentoran into a major force much quicker than I and many others could have imagined.

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