Earlier in the week, we released our 2022 SSE Airtricity League Premier Division Team of the Season into the wild. You can check that out on our website, if you fancy it. A link can be found at the bottom of this article.
Now we turn our focus to the First Division.
Formation – 4-3-3
Manager – Tommy Barrett (Treaty United)
GK – David Harrington (Cork City)
Nice and easy way to kick-off proceedings.
David had massive gloves to fill, as his father, Phil ‘Biscuits’ Harrington played for Cork City over two spells. Most notably, making 257 league appearances from 1988, until 1997, and winning a Premier Division title in the process.
The 22-year-old has also beat out stiff competition from Jimmy Corcoran, and club legend, Mark McNulty to be a regular starter at Turner’s Cross in 2022.
Harrington kept 14 clean sheets in the First Division, which was the highest tally of the season.
He has all the tools to forge a successful career between the sticks. There’s no surprise that Premier League side, Everton are set to bring him to Merseyside when he heals up from his current injury.
RB – Darragh Power (Waterford)
We’ll tip our cap to Cork City’s Kevin O’Connor, and Darragh’s teammate, Tunmise Sobowale who’re both coming off impressive campaigns.
However, Power was one of the stand-out players in Waterford’s First Division talent rich squad.
He made 27 appearances in the league, clocking up 2,207 minutes of game time.
On the attack, he chipped in with two assists in the league. But he does his best work with his defensive duties, as he can be versatile in his positioning playing as either a right, or left back. Blues fans will be hoping to see him remain for another season as they battle for promotion, but his signature will be sought after by others.
CB – Killian Cantwell (Waterford)
The 27-year-old is turning into an extremely consistent League of Ireland veteran. He shines at almost every club he represents.
He signed from Athlone Town before the start of the season, and has been impossible to shake from the Waterford starting eleven ever since.
Cantwell rarely ever puts a foot wrong, and holds exceptional leadership qualities to marshal any defensive unit.
He made 24 league appearances, racking up 2,452 minutes of playing time.
Waterford finished with the third best defensive record in the First Division, and Killian Cantwell had a lot of say in that.
CB – Ally Gilchrist (Cork City)
For all of Cork City’s attacking capabilities, their back-four was absolutely stellar this season. While Ally Gilchrist rightly gets into this team, his partner Cian Coleman was superb too.
Gilchrist is the master of fundamentals for a centre-back, and brings a calm head to any high-pressure situation. His distribution is always very classy, with him often displaying a high range of passing.
He made 26 league appearances, and was a key part to Cork City’s championship winning season.
Gilchrist has made it no secret for his fondness of the Rebel City, and he will be a huge asset to Colin Healy in the Premier Division.
LB – Dylan Barnett (Longford Town)
We really wanted to put Treaty United’s, Marc Ludden in our Team of the Season. However, Barnett was different gravy in 2022.
Dylan Barnett is another player that can fit into several areas around the pitch, but he’s blossomed into a wonderful modern full-back for Longford.
He finished the season with three goals, and eight assists, which is extremely impressive.
Barnett is a handful going forward. The 25-year-old is a very willing runner with the ball, and a danger from set-pieces.
Unfortunately for Longford fans, he was missing throughout the play-offs with an injury, and they missed him badly.
CM – Aaron Bolger (Cork City)
Picking a midfield is always death, so all three of these selections will commence with an honourable mention. So yeah, didn’t Dean McMenamy shine for Longford this season?
Anyway, onto Aaron Bolger, the lad was in the heart of everything good that Cork displayed in 2022.
Bolger has shined under Colin Healy, and has finally seemed to find a footballing home that he can showcase his potential, as he played the most league minutes for Cork City this year.
The 22-year-old lacks physicality on the surface, but approaches games with a surprising intensity, and is tenacious in a challenge.
His composure on the ball is something to behold. He seems ready to shine in the top-tier of Irish domestic football.
CM – Niall O’Keefe (Waterford)
This time around, we’ll send some love to Galway United’s, Conor McCormack who continues to raise his high standards, but just came short of entering our team.
While Waterford are no strangers to the managerial merry-go-round, no matter who’s in the hotseat, Niall O’Keefe seems to be the first name on their team-sheet.
The 22-year-old has become a massive fan favourite within the Munster club, and has even shared captaincy duties when goalkeeper, Brian Murphy isn’t available.
With his vocal nature, you’d assume he’ll take over that mantle full-time in the near future.
Waterford fans will know missing out on the Premier Division will have the sharks circling this crop of players, and they’ll be desperate to keep O’Keefe at the club.
CAM – Barry Coffey (Cork City)
Let’s address the Junior Quitirna elephant in the room.
Cards on the table, he’s not in the team. We wholeheartedly agree that decision is egregious, but no point crying over spilt milk, you’ll only have more mopping to do afterwards.
It was razor close between the aforementioned Junior, and our official selection, Barry Coffey. In the end, with our 4-3-3 selection, Coffey excelled with that additional freedom under Colin Healy.
The Tipperary native initially joined the Leesiders on loan from Celtic, but made that a permanent deal in the summer.
Cork City were delighted they did, as the 21-year-old scored 14 goals in 27 league games, finishing up as the club’s top goal-scorer.
There seems to be a constant sense of mystery around his future. If he was to depart Turner’s Cross, he’ll leave in the knowledge that he aided greatly in Cork’s return to the top-flight.
RW – Stephen Walsh (Galway United)
While we might have him slightly out of position, considering he was a defender for the majority of his career, we hope our dear readers cut us some slack.
Walsh was undoubtably the surprise package of the 2022 First Division campaign.
The now 32-year-old re-joined Galway for his fourth spell, when John Caufield signed him in 2021 when he was playing for Galway Hibernians outside the League of Ireland.
Caufield made the odd choice to insert him into the attacking end of the pitch, but Stephen Walsh has flourished in his new role.
He finished the season as the Tribesmen highest goal-scorer.
Walsh netted 16 times in the league, and chipped in with six assists. Not bad for a career left-back.
ST – Enda Curran (Treaty United)
30-year-old Enda Curran is a well-respected journeyman of Irish football.
He really gave the patrons at the Markets Field something to cheer about this season.
The Galway native scored 13 times in 23 First Division appearances, finishing up as Treaty’s main source of goals.
You could argue that without Curran, Treaty wouldn’t have got to their second consecutive play-off in the club’s two-year lifespan. Especially with Wexford finishing strong, and only three points behind in the final league standings.
Curran was also an essential part of his teams excellent FAI Cup run, when they made it all the way to the semi-final. He bagged himself a hat-trick in the quarter-finals against, UCD.
Treaty United continue to shine in the League of Ireland, and Enda Curran was the jewel in their crown this season.
LW – Phoenix Patterson (Waterford)
Honestly, what do you say about this absolute baller that hasn’t been said by ourselves, and many others throughout the year?
Phoenix Patterson has dazzled the First Division from start to finish.
He grabbed himself 17 league goals in 31 outings. Plus, the 22-year-old popped up with 9 assists during the duration of the season. Patterson was key in the club’s league, and FAI Cup successes. He played the most minutes for Waterford in 2022, clocking in 3,048 minutes, with a 97 percent starting rate.
Away from the statistics, he’s an extremely flair-based player, and capable of producing magic at moment’s notice.
For somebody that isn’t a central forward to be such a danger in the goals department is unbelievable.
In our eyes, he was by far the best player in the league, and good enough to shine in the Premier Division, or across the water.
Waterford will need to perform a minor miracle to keep him in the First Division, but it’ll be a serious statement if they manage it.
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