Jon Walters has been named as Ireland's Senior International Player of the Year at the FAI's annual Three sponsored awards with the 32 year-old striker, who scored for Stoke City over the weekend, recognised for his key contribution to Ireland's successful Euro 2016 qualification campaign.
Wes Hoolahan and Robbie Brady also made the shortlist for the award but Walters, who was repeatedly singled out for particular praise by manager Martin O'Neill for his performances during the campaign, represented a fairly straightforward choice for the jury after a year in which he featured in eight of Ireland's nine games - he missed Bosnia and Herzegovina away through suspension - starting all seven of the competitive games for which he was available and scored five goals.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said after receiving the accolade. “You can’t describe what it means to you, how good it feels but without all the people in the background you wouldn’t be here. I’m just happy to do my part. We have a big summer ahead of ourselves and we’re all looking forward to that.”
The Stoke City star said that despite what he describes as a “slightly stop start season” at this club, he was pleased to have made such an impact on Ireland’s successful campaign.
“Yeah, it’s the one (international campaign) I’ve played the biggest part in compared to other ones. Obviously I had a taste of the Euros four years ago and it was very disappointing how it ended but there are a lot of players still around from then and hopefully that experience will stand to us.”
Brady, meanwhile, picked up the Young Player of the Year award ahead of Jeff Hendrick and Cyrus Christie with the 24 year-old Dubliner looking increasingly important to the team and chipping in with the vital away goal in the play-off match in Zenica.
Like Walters, Brady scored for his club at the weekend with the midfielder grabbing the winner for Norwich City as they beat West Brom, a result that, after Sunday’s draw between Newcastle and Sunderland, puts them two points clear of the relegation zone.
The Irishman was injured late in the game, however, after a collision with Craig Dawson, an impact that caused him to land awkwardly on his head and neck and the fact that he was reported to have been "dazed" when receiving treatment after the incident means that he will be regarded as at least a slight doubt for Friday's friendly international game against Switzerland.
“I’m going for a scan in the morning to make sure everything is alright,” said the Dubliner last night. “It’s a little not sore at moment. It was just an awkward one, the way I came down on it. I can’t even remember (what happened). It was like a car crash! I’ve had a rough couple of weeks. I just put my foot in and he just put his foot down like an American football tackle - he hit me across the ankles.I don’t know what happened after that, I haven’t seen it back on TV.
“I wasn’t out cold but it shook me up for a minute. It was the right decision to come off. The shoulder started to stiffen up and my left eye was a little bit blurry so I think the impact was a shock to the body after the way I came down.
“The shoulder is a bit of a worry but hopefully that will clear up tomorrow. I’ll have it checked and see how it is but hopefully all good for the two games.”
Winners: Senior International Player: Jonathan Walters; Senior Women's International Player: Denise O'Sullivan; Young International Player: Robbie Brady; Three International Goal: Shane Long v Germany; Special Merit: Regions' Cup team; Hall of Fame: Tony Cascarino; International Personality: Gianluca Vialli; Under 21 International Player: Alan Browne; Under 19 International Player: Ryan Manning; Under 19 Women's International Player: Megan Connolly; Under 17 International Player: Connor Ronan; Under 17 Women's International Player: Amanda McQuillan; Under 16 International Player Jayson Molumby (Brighton & Hove Albion); Under 16 Women's International Player: Heather Payne (Salthill Devon); Under 15 International Player: Lee O'Connor (Villa - Waterford); SSE Airtricity League Player: Richie Towell (Dundalk): Junior International Player of the Year: Jimmy Carr (St Michael's); Intermediate Player: Kenneth Hoey (Rockmount); FAI School's International Player: Connor Ellis (Colaiste Phobail); Football For All International Player: Mark Duffy (Special Olympics Ireland).