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Dublin: 9°C Tuesday 20 April 2021

Ranking the 15 best players in the 2017 League of Ireland season

Patrick McEleney and other domestic stars who impressed over the past 12 months.

15. Dinny Corcoran (Bohemians)

Dinny Corcoran Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

It was not a particularly memorable season for Bohs. They never looked like they were going to be dragged into a relegation battle, while they weren’t good enough to seriously challenge the top sides in the long run. But one player who didn’t disappoint was Dinny Corcoran. The 28-year-old former St Pat’s and Sligo forward enjoyed a vintage season, scoring 15 goals in the league for Keith Long’s team — only Sean Maguire and David McMillan managed more.

14. Karl Sheppard (Cork City)

Karl Sheppard celebrates scoring a goal Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

A key figure in Cork’s title campaign, the 26-year-old was a vital part of the attack particularly once Sean Maguire departed. He hit nine league goals in total, and the Leesiders will be relieved he ultimately chose to stay with the club, signing a two-year deal, after he had a change of heart about joining Dundalk.

13. Rodrigo Tosi (Limerick)

Rodrigo Tosi Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

One of the signings of the season, Limerick successfully battled against relegation and their Brazilian centre forward was a big reason for them avoiding the drop. The 34-year-old registered 14 goals in the league, as Neil McDonald’s team finished the campaign in seventh place.

12. Ryan Delaney (Cork City)

Ryan Delaney

A regular part of a Cork defence that conceded 23 goals in the league — fewer than any other side in the Premier Division — Delaney’s classy performances at the back also earned him a PFAI Young Player of the Year nomination. Now that the 21-year-old’s loan stint at Turner’s Cross has ended, it appears his next challenge will be establishing himself as a first-team regular at Burton Albion in the Championship.

11. Alan Bennett (Cork City)

Alan Bennett celebrates aftre the game Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

A tireless servant to the club, the experienced centre-back remains a key figure for the Leesiders at 36. Bennett has had two spells at Cork in between a period in which he lined out for a number of sides in England’s lower leagues, but 2017 is likely the best year of his career so far, as he captained John Caulfield’s men to a historic league and cup double.

10. Ronan Murray (Galway)

Ronan Murray misses a penalty Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Scoring 13 goals is impressive enough but doing so for a relegated side is particularly outstanding. Galway ultimately suffered the heartache of going down on the final day of the campaign, but Murray can certainly hold his head up high on the back of numerous impressive displays. The former Ipswich player and Mayo native earned a spot in the PFAI Team of the Year as a result of some fine performances, while he subsequently earned a move to Dundalk in the off-season.

9. Niclas Vemmelund (Dundalk)

Niclas Vemmelund celebrates his goal Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Having excelled for Derry City last season, Vemmelund managed another campaign to remember for Dundalk. He was part of a Lilywhites defence that conceded only 24 goals — just one more than champions Cork City — while the Danish player was especially good when Dundalk came under the cosh in Europe, as they went close to upsetting Rosenborg. Nevertheless, the 25-year-old has since returned home, leaving Dundalk for Denmark’s third tier.

8. Michael Duffy (Dundalk)

Michael Duffy celebrates scoring a goal Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

The former Celtic winger enjoyed a fine first season with Dundalk, managing eight goals and being a virtual ever-present for Stephen Kenny’s side. At 23, his best years are undoubtedly ahead of him, so he could well be a key Lilywhites player for many campaigns to come.

7. Trevor Clarke (Shamrock Rovers)

Trevor Clarke Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The ex-Middlesbrough youngster has already established himself as an important player for Shamrock Rovers at 19. Capable of playing on the wing or at full-back, the Ireland underage starlet and former St Kevin’s Boys player may well return for a second stint in England if he continues to progress — indeed, he was linked with a move to Southampton last June. The Dubliner scored three goals in 2017, including one in his man-of-the-match display against Bohemians, which led to one of the more colourful post-match interviews.

6. David McMillan (Dundalk)

David McMillan celebrates scoring a goal Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

The second top scorer behind Sean Maguire with 16 goals, McMillan’s excellent form helped Dundalk consolidate second place and saw him earn a move to Scottish top-flight side St Johnstone following the culmination of the 2017 League of Ireland season. He will be badly missed at Oriel Park in the forthcoming campaign.

5. Aaron McEneff (Derry City)

Aaron McEneff celebrates scoring a goal Source: Presseye/Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

The 22-year-old former Tottenham youngster this season firmly established himself as one of the League of Ireland’s brightest prospects. In a season that was overshadowed by the tragic sudden passing of 27-year-old captain Ryan McBride, Derry showed admirable resolve in difficult circumstances and ultimately finished fourth to qualify for the Europa League, with McEneff — who hit nine goals in the league — consistently one of their top performers.

4. Gearóid Morrissey (Cork City)

Gearoid Morrissey Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Along with Conor McCormack, Morrissey ensured Cork won most of their midfield battles this season. The 26-year-old has had spells in England with Blackburn Rovers and Cambridge United, but it is when playing for John Caulfield’s side that he has excelled — in two spells with the club, he has made well over 100 appearances, and he recently signed a deal to keep him there until 2019 at least.

3. Conor McCormack (Cork City)

Conor McCormack Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

A key player in midfield for Cork’s double winners, the 27-year-old Louth native was an integral part of the Leesiders’ squad. The former Manchester United youth player’s dogged performances in midfield saw him compared to N’Golo Kante, as he provided ample protection to Cork’s backline.

2. Patrick McEleney (Dundalk)

Patrick McEleney celebrates Robbie Benson's goal Source: Ciaran Culligan/INPHO

It may have been a disappointing season overall for Dundalk given the incredibly high standards they have set, but Patrick McEleney can be proud of his campaign. The Derry native was consistently influential for the Lilywhites, scoring 10 goals — several of which were crackers.

1. Sean Maguire (Cork City)

Sean Maguire Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Comfortably the standout Irish player in 2017, it was telling that despite leaving for Preston halfway through the season, Maguire still finished the 2017 League of Ireland campaign as top scorer with 20 goals. He may have only spent a season and a half with Cork, but his impact in this short stint was substantial.

Who were your standout players this season? Let us know in the comments section below.

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