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O'Neill gets top award after year to remember

NEW Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill was last night named the Airtricity/Soccer Writers Association of Ireland Personality of the Year in recognition of his work at Shamrock Rovers.

The 42-year-old picked up the 2011 gong after a year in which the Hoops retained the League of Ireland and also became the first Irish team to qualify for the group stages of a major European competition. And, for good measure, Rovers also collected the Setanta Cup.

O'Neill, who will officially begin work in his new job on February 1, saw off competition from Sligo boss Paul Cook and midfielder Joseph Ndo, Cork supremo Thomas Dunne, former Rovers defender Patrick Sullivan and the prolific Eamon Zayed, who has recently moved from Derry City to a club in Iran.

Derry's Gerard Doherty collected the Goalkeeper of the Year award, pipping Brendan Clarke and Gary Rogers to the honour.

Doherty has been a consistent presence between the sticks for Derry and new Hoops boss Stephen Kenny would love to bring the netminder to Tallaght.

However, he is staying in his native city, where pre-season training under new manager Declan Devine is already under way.

Eoin Hand received the Special Merit Award, while a special presentation was also made to Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni in recognition for steering the country to this summer's Euro 2012 finals.

IN Wednesday's Irish Independent, it was inaccurately stated that retired international Alan McLoughlin qualified to play for Ireland through a Cork-born grandmother.

McLoughlin was, in fact, eligible because both of his parents are Irish-born. His father Pat hails from Knockaderry in Co Limerick and his mother Nora is a native of Largan, Co Galway.

We apologise to Alan and his family for our error.

Irish Independent