Former Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Emma Byrne has become the first woman ever to be inducted into the FAI’s Hall of Fame, at the FAI International Awards ceremony at the RTÉ studios in Dublin tonight.
Having started out at St Patrick’s Athletic, Byrne enjoyed a remarkable club career, most of it spent at Arsenal, where she won 11 league titles, 10 FA Cup trophies as well as a Champions League win.
The now 39 year-old represented the Republic of Ireland 134 times at senior international level over the course of a senior international career that began in March 1996 and only ended with her retirement in 2017. For the final four years of her career she was team captain.
“Emma was a fantastic goalkeeper and ambassador for the women’s game,” says FAI chief executive John Delaney. “She deserves to have her name in the Hall of Fame, alongside some of the best players ever to represent Ireland.”
Richard Dunne was also inducted into the FAI Hall of Fame on the night, with stellar performances throughout his career referred to – and even a poem recited in tribute to on the night – with Dunne’s performance versus Russia in Moscow in particular in September 2011 particularly alluded to.
Shane Duffy has been named as the FAI’s Men’s Senior International Player Of The Year. Duffy finished ahead of Darren Randolph and Declan Rice. Having won the prize last year, he becomes the first player to win it two years running since Shay Given back in 2006.
While joyous moments in 2018 were few and far between for the senior international men’s team, there were still some excellent individual performances at times with Duffy putting in stellar performances throughout the year, playing in all eight of Ireland’s senior internationals in 2018.
Leanne Kiernan won the Senior International Women’s Player of the Year award. She moved from Shelbourne to West Ham last year, scoring four goals for the senior national team in 2018 – including three in World Cup qualifiers.
Other notable awards saw Dundalk midfielder Chris Shields win Airtricity League Player of the Year ahead of team-mates Pat Hoban and Michael Duffy.
Declan Rice won the Young Player of the Year (Under-25) award but he was not present to pick up the award having been named in England’s senior squad for their upcoming UEFA Euro 2020 qualifiers last week.
Goal of the Year went to Aiden O’Brien’s header on his senior international debut in the 1-1 draw versus Poland in Wroclaw in September.
Men’s Under-21 Player of the Year went to Ronan Curtis who joined Portsmouth from Derry City last year and played two senior internationals in 2018. He would have been in the senior Republic of Ireland squad for the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against Gibraltar and Georgia but he suffered a freak finger injury – almost losing the digit when slamming his hand in a door – which has ruled him out of action for three weeks or more.
Special Merit Award went to the League of Ireland’s all-time leading scorer Brendan Bradley, the striker who scored 248 goals in 425 club appearances for seven different clubs – including two stints with his hometown club Derry City.
Other awards on the night were as follows:
Men’s Under-19s Player of the Year:
Women’s Under-19s Player of the Year:
Men’s Under-18s Player of the Year:
Men’s Under-17s Player of the Year:
Women’s Under-17s Player of the Year:
Men’s Under-16s Player of the Year:
Women’s Under-16s Player of the Year:
Men’s Under-15s Player of the Year:
Anselmo Garcia McNulty
Junior International Player of the Year:
Eoin Hayes (Newmarket Celtic)
Intermediate Player of the Year:
Darragh Reynor (Maynooth University Town)
Football For All Award Winner:
Nathalie O’Brien (Irish Women’s Deaf Futsal)
Colleges & Universities Player of the Year:
Daire O’Connor (UCD – now Cork City FC)
Schools Player of the Year:
Ali Regbha (Chanel College, Coolock, Dublin)
Kakha Kaladze (ex-AC Milan and Georgia international)