For those of you who buy the match programme, one of the highlights is The Spectator’s end-of-year awards, The Speccies!  For those of you who don’t, we bring you the digital edition of the awards ceremony that nobody has been asking for…The Speccies XVI.

The Tom McNulty Player of the Season Award
It’s probably fair to say there’s no outstanding contender this year, with an up-and-down season that never really got going. Perhaps the most consistent performer was fan favourite Archie Davies. The popular Number 2 fits the template for Dundalk’s right wing-back role, an all-action athlete comfortable overlapping in attack or defending stoutly. A worthy successor to Simon Madden, Raivis Jurkovskis and Sean Gannon.

The Philly Hughes Memorial Goal of the Season Award
From the belter category, there was John Martin’s thunderbolt free-kick against Shelbourne and Ryan O’Kane’s rocket against UCD, and there were a number of impressive team goals as we sporadically threatened to kick into action during the season. Perhaps it’s recency bias but The Spectator is going for Sam Durrant’s slaloming run and finish in the thrashing of Cork City, eclipsing Rayhaan Tulloch’s similar effort at Tolka early in the season and Louie Annesley’s glorious romp against Rovers.

The ‘2002 Cup Semi-Final’ Award for Game of the Season
5-0 thrashings of Pats and Cork were all well and good, but the opposition had barely turned up and there were two fine wins over the Hooped Minions of Beelzebub. The excellent showing in Sligo in October was up there too. For sheer fun, the smash-and-grab – and late penalty save – in Drogheda back in April was most enjoyable.

The ‘2023 Cup Quarter-Final’ Award for Worst Game of the Season
The Spectator remembers a time when the turgid, sweaty slog of a 0-0 draw in Gibraltar looked like a shoo-in for this award. Those were sweet innocent days. Those were the days before Galway away. Few words are appropriate to describe the experience in Galway and most of them are not fit to print. Suffice it to say that ‘The 2023 Cup Quarter-Final Award’ will be the new name for this category.

15 September 2023; Ed McCarthy scores Galway United’s second goal during the Sports Direct Men’s FAI Cup quarter-final match at Eamonn Deacy Park in Galway. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

The Grudging Admiration Award for Another Team of the Season
A strange category with Rovers and Derry going steadily backwards, only for the rest of us to decline a challenge. Plucky Drogs continued to defy gravity, ending up comfortably clear of the relegation zone, and KA are no world beaters but they ruthlessly exploited the chances presented generously by Dundalk. But the winner can only be, through gritted teeth, Galway United.

The Neale Fenn Award for Returning Villain in a Leading Role
Jordan Flores scored a cracker, ran the show, and took a gloriously cynical yellow for the team as Bohs ground a win out of a horrible game in February but short of bringing Neale Fenn out of retirement (again) there could hardly be a more pantomime villain to swoop in and steal this award. One-time arch-nemesis of a forgotten time when Dundalk and Cork City dragged the league into the modern era, John Caulfield reemerged, like a horror movie villain we all thought was dead, to wreak havoc on behalf of Galway.

The Magic Mons Award for Bogey Opposition
A child of the 90s, The Spectator is predisposed to dislike Shelbourne, among a host of other clubs, in fairness. 2023 did nothing to change that with Damien Duff’s grim Shels side choking a point out of August’s Oriel Park clash, taking a point with ten men in April and winning a second dismal game in Tolka towards the end of the season.

The Kildare County ‘Can We Play You Every Week’ Award
Well, it should really be UCD, shouldn’t it? But we threw away two points on the opening night and made hard work of May’s win at the Bowl. Cork City obligingly coughed up a handy six points at Oriel and three in two awful games in Turner’s Cross but there can only be one winner. Step out of our shadow Drogheda United to receive your award…. 12 points out of 12, job done. Let’s tone the atmosphere down from full-scale riot to merely raucous next season though!