Sheffield United striker David Parkhouse faced uphill task against the 'Darlings of Dublin' at PFAI awards

The 2019 PFAI Premier Division Team of the Year.
The 2019 PFAI Premier Division Team of the Year.

DANNY Mandroiu is a top talent and was crowned Young Player of the Year by his fellow pros but how David Parkhouse didn’t win the PFAI award baffles me.

The Sheffield United striker who spent last season on loan at Derry City was a pivotal player as the Candy Stripes qualified for Europe and deservedly found himself on a three-man shortlist alongside Dubliners, Senior Player of the Year, Jack Byrne and Mandroui.

All three have been exceptional this season but Northern Ireland U21 international, 'Parky' edged the Young Player award for me, given Byrne collected the main prize.

He netted 11 league goals and an incredible tally of 19 in all competitions during his first full season in senior football - an incredible achievement - finished as the club’s top goalscorer and was named in the PFAI Team of the Year.

Putting aside all of his attacking strengths and his hold up play, it is his workrate that must be applauded and he proved a handful for established League of Ireland defenders.
Mandroiu (21), who joined Bohemians at the start of the 2019 season after leaving Premiership club, Brighton & Hove Albion was also a revelation this season. However, it’s arguable that

Parkhouse made a bigger contribution to his team’s success given his goal ratio.

David Parkhouse was named in the PFAI Team of the Year for 2019.

David Parkhouse was named in the PFAI Team of the Year for 2019.

While his size, strength and mentality belies his tender age, it must be remembered Parkhouse was just 19 years of age during almost the entirety of the 2019 League of Ireland campaign.

The Strabane native was at a crossroads in his career when Devine and his team came knocking in the close season after frustrating loan spells with non-league Boston United and Tamworth and in many ways was in a similar position to Republic of Ireland U21 international, Mandroiu who has revived his own career at Dalymount Park.

Derry City boss, Devine and previous incumbents have bemoaned the fact Derry is often overlooked when it comes to winning recognition or top accolades. Parkhouse was pipped by Dundalk centre half, Dan Cleary for the SSE Airtricity League/Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland Player of the Month for August despite scoring SIX goals that month, including four in the EA Sports Cup semi-final. So he would’ve attended Saturday’s glitzy award ceremony in the Marker Hotel, Dublin in hope rather than expectation.

And Devine won’t be surprised by the failure of Parkhouse’s peers to hand him the honour but he was in no doubt the young Blades hitman was a worthy winner of the accolade when the nominees were announced last month.

“For me, he’s the best young player in the league,” said Devine. “I think Mandroiu and Byrne are in a different category. Parky has been under 20 years of age this season so he is the proper young player of the year.

“Will he win it? We don’t win personal awards at Derry but it doesn’t matter.”

Devine himself should have been among the three nominees for Manager of the Year, in my opinion. Dundalk boss Vinny Perth won it ahead of Stephen Bradley and Keith Long. The Creggan man, did after all, manage a total overhaul at the Brandywell club having inherited just four players and guided them to an EA Sports Cup Final and to Europe!

Those weren’t the only awards to baffle League of Ireland fans and pundits alike at the weekend as referee, Michelle O’Neill - an assistant referee at the women’s World Cup Final in July and in the UEFA Super Cup between Liverpool and Chelsea in August - bemusingly received the PFAI Premier Division ‘Referee of the Year’ award despite the fact she hasn’t refereed a single League of Ireland match!

Replacing Parkhouse is going to be a tough task for Devine. While there is hope Derry can convince the league’s golden boot winner, Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe to remain on Foyleside next season and Conor Davis and Michael McCrudden will add firepower, an out-an-out goalscorer is needed in the absence of Parkhouse.

There are not too many in the league at present with Dinny Corcoran committed to Bohs, Karl Sheppard signing for Shelbourne and Pat Hoban securing a new deal at champions, Dundalk. Liam Buckley did well in securing the services of both Romeo Parkes and Ronan Coughlan. FAI Cup holders, Shamrock Rovers boast the quality of Ireland international, Graham Burke, Aaron Greene and Graham Cummings but Derry will need reinforcements. Glancing through the recent PFAI Transfer list, the only real notable name is ex-Shamrock Rovers striker, Gary Shaw, who spent last season at Richmond Park.

Perhaps Devine can convince former Candy Stripes, Georgie Kelly to give up playing second fiddle to Hoban at Oriel Park and return to Brandywell and lead the line. Kelly came off the bench to score an extra-time winner which sent Derry crashing out of the FAI Cup last August.

The Tooban native netted seven goals last season but most of his appearances were as a substitute and I’d love to see how he would progress with the responsibility of being Derry City’s No. 9. It could be the perfect time to return to Foyleside but he remains under contract in Dundalk.

Paddy McCourt’s cross-Channel contacts will no doubt be fully explored once again and it will be interesting to see who arrives at the club over the winter months.

Brandywell native, Dean Jarvis is another man out of contract and rumoured to be on his way out of Oriel Park while Danny Lafferty is also available after his short stint at Tallaght.

Former Shamrock Rovers and Finn Harps right back, Ethan Boyle is another on the PFAI transfer list who could potentially interest Devine who will be in need of a right-back in the absence of the injured Darren Cole. And following Greg Sloggett’s departure, another ex-Candy Stripe, former Cork City captain, Conor McCormack would be a fantastic addition should

Devine manage to convince him to return to the club while the versatile Sam Bone has been on the radar from last season and would be seen as a direct replacement.

Whatever happens over the course of the next couple of months, it promises to be an intriguing watch as we anticipate the comings and going around the League of Ireland.