Our picks for the best players of the 2020 season
The League of Ireland Premier Division season came to a conclusion yesterday after each team played just 18 games. Despite it’s brevity, the 2020 season was not without it’s drama, incidents and of course, standout performers.
With that said, here are our picks for the best XI of the 2020 League of Ireland Premier Division season:
Edward McGinty – Sligo Rovers
At just 20 years of age, Ed McGinty made quite an impression this season as his side finished 4th in the league table.
McGinty was voted Sligo’s Young Player of the Year in 2019 and has only improved since. He was one of the few players to play every league game of the season as he firmly established himself as the Bit O’ Red’s number one. He made several stunning saves during a stellar season. McGinty also played a key part in Sligo’s win over Dundalk yesterday as he managed to keep a clean sheet.
He recently earned a call up to Jim Crawford’s Ireland u21 squad ahead of the upcoming games against Iceland and Luxembourg. A credit to his domestic form.
Ed McGinty included in @FAIreland Under-21 squad. https://t.co/IvD4hEvCnt
— Sligo Rovers (@sligorovers) NOVEMBER 6, 2020
Andy Lyons – Bohemians
Normally this position is reserved for Sean Gannon of Dundalk but his lack of playing time in recent weeks and Dundalk’s less than impressive season means he misses out. Instead, Andy Lyons comes in at right back.
The 20-year-old made the right back position his own this season after featuring on a rotation/sporadic basis in season’s past. Impressive going forward but also accomplished defensively, Lyons helped his club to a 2nd place finish this season. Lyons will only improve in years to come, meaning overseas interest may not be far off for the young right back.
Joey O’Brien – Shamrock Rovers
The veteran full back turned central defender had a very impressive season as Shamrock Rovers went unbeaten on their way to winning the league title.
Despite having Premier League and international experience, O’Brien is arguably one of the most underrated players in the league. His ball retention as a defender and football IQ is second to none when compared to other defenders in the league.
His experience is vital to this Shamrock Rover’s team. His inclusion in this XI is warranted given his commanding performances this season.
Roberto Lopes – Shamrock Rovers
Joey O’Brien’s defensive partner for Rovers makes up the 2nd central defensive spot in this XI. The Cape Verdean international produced some immense displays this season on the way to the title. His performance against AC Milan in the Europa League qualifiers showed how capable he is of performing as a high level.
In truth, Shamrock Rover’s other starting central defender, Lee Grace, was unlucky to miss out on the XI. His performances were equally as impressive as the aforementioned centre backs.
Tyreke Wilson – Waterford
Wilson had an impressive first season in the League of Ireland. The young left back arrived from Manchester City in January and has made quite the impression since.
Like Andy Lyons, Wilson is a modern day full back in that he can attack and defend with equal efficiency. He scored an incredible free kick earlier in the season as Waterford defeated Bohemians. Waterford will do well to keep hold of him after a fine debut season.
What a fantastic freekick from Orchard boy Tyreke Wilson. Tyreke helped his Waterford FC side to a 2-0 victory over Bohemians as they climb to fourth place in SSE Airtricity League. Keep up the good work Tyreke 🍒⚽️#COFC#ForTheFuture pic.twitter.com/jAaRz5DVov
— Cherry Orchard FC (@CherryOrchardFC) SEPTEMBER 11, 2020
Aaron McEneff – Shamrock Rovers
The former Spurs trainee has impressed since joining Dundalk from Derry in 2019. He was pivotal in Shamrock Rover’s title challenge as he started the majority of their games.
McEneff is a technical midfielder with a ferocious shot. He displayed his finishing ability on occasion as he ended the campaign with 3 goals to his name.
Sligo Rovers 1-2 SHAMROCK ROVERS.
Aaron McEneff sidefoots the ball over Sligo goalkeeper Ed McGinty to give the visitors the lead at the Showgrounds.
It’s LIVE now on eir sport 1! #LOI #SLIvSHA pic.twitter.com/wJCjVAtxeT
— eir Sport (@eirSport) MARCH 7, 2020
Keith Buckley – Bohemians
Keith Buckley featured in all but one of Bohemian’s games all season as they achieved their highest top flight finish in a decade.
The Bohs’ captain produced several impressive performers this season with his combative displays in the centre of the park. Bohemians needed a leader with the retirement of Derek Pender and Buckley more than stepped up to the plate as he lead his young side to an excellent finish.
Gary O’Neill – Shamrock Rovers
It’s an all Rovers/Bohs midfield three as Gary O’Neill takes the final spot.
Like McEneff, O’Neill joined Rovers in 2019 and hasn’t looked back since. The former UCD man scored the winning penalty in last season’s FAI cup final and has only improved since. His performances in the Rovers midfield this season have firmly established him as an important member of the first team squad for years to come.
Jack Byrne – Shamrock Rovers
Byrne is the first name that springs to mind when you think of a League of Ireland footballer and it’s easy to see why. He joined Shamrock Rovers for the 2019 season and has earned several plaudits since.
The winger/midfielder won Player of the Year for the 2019 season and it looks likely he’ll reclaim his title for 2020. He put in some spectacular performances this season which seen him rack up 9 goals and 4 assists.
Although it would be nice to witness Byrne in the league for another season it doesn’t look likely. Reported interest from Bournemouth, Stoke City and Colorado Rapids could provide a challenge for Rovers to keep him at the club.
The @SSEAirtricityLg at it’s brilliant best.
Jack Byrne 🔥 #LOI | #GreatestLeagueInTheWorld pic.twitter.com/GzFYaX8wxD
— FAIreland ⚽️🇮🇪 (@FAIreland) FEBRUARY 28, 2020
Danny Grant – Bohemians
Grant is one of the most improved players in the league this season. He had a good 2019 season but stepped up a level this term.
The inverted winger was key to Bohemian’s finishing as high as they did. His 7 goals from the wing were vital in securing a top 2 finish.
Grant is undoubtedly one of the most exciting players in the League of Ireland currently. His breath-taking performances this season have earned him an inclusion in Jim Crawford’s u21 squad. Bohemians could mount a serious title challenge next season if they can hold onto Grant and secure some first team additions.
GOAL | @FinnHarpsFC 0-1 @bfcdublin
24 | Lovely touch inside and Danny Grant makes no mistake 👏
WATCH LIVE | https://t.co/IBZkINEa20#WATCHLOI | 𝗦𝘂𝗽𝗽𝗼𝗿𝘁 𝗬𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗖𝗹𝘂𝗯 pic.twitter.com/hBonq5XxNE
— SSE Airtricity League (@SSEAirtricityLg) AUGUST 15, 2020
Pat Hoban – Dundalk
Despite Dundalk’s unimpressive league form, Pat Hoban can hold his head up high with his return this season.
The striker has scored goals with regularity since re-joining the Lilywhites. This season, he kept up his goalscoring form as he chipped in with 10 league goals, making him the league’s top goalscorer.
GOAL | @stpatsfc 0-1 @DundalkFC
23′ | Darragh Leahy got in around the back to get on the end of a cross and Hoban tapped home
WATCH LIVE | https://t.co/IBZkINEa20#WATCHLOI | 𝗦𝘂𝗽𝗽𝗼𝗿𝘁 𝗬𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗖𝗹𝘂𝗯 pic.twitter.com/50QDAaK0eB
— SSE Airtricity League (@SSEAirtricityLg) NOVEMBER 1, 2020