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Season review: Republic of Ireland

Published: Wednesday 14 November 2012, 11.57CET
Sligo Rovers FC won a first Premier Division crown in 35 years at the expense of surprise package and League Cup winners Drogheda United FC while Derry City FC lifted the Irish Cup.
by Aidan Fitzmaurice
from Dublin
Season review: Republic of Ireland
Sligo claimed their first title in 35 years ©Sportsfile
Published: Wednesday 14 November 2012, 11.57CET

Season review: Republic of Ireland

Sligo Rovers FC won a first Premier Division crown in 35 years at the expense of surprise package and League Cup winners Drogheda United FC while Derry City FC lifted the Irish Cup.

It was a season to remember for Sligo Rovers FC as they saw off the challenge of surprise package and League Cup winners Drogheda United FC to claim their first title in 35 years, while Derry City FC needed extra time to overcome Saint Patrick's Athletic FC and lift the Irish Cup.

Champions: Sligo Rovers FC
Nicknamed the Bit O' Red, Sligo's supporters had endured a 35-year wait to see the league title brought to their Showgrounds home, but an impressive debut season for manager Ian Baraclough culminated in the north-west side winning the championship with two games remaining. Sligo even coped without leading scorer Danny North, who missed the second half of the campaign through injury, and secured the crown with a dramatic 3-2 victory over Saint Patrick's Athletic FC. "Our fans waited 35 years for a league title, that is far too long for a club this size and we have to make sure that does not happen again," said Baraclough.

Cup final: Derry City FC 3-2 Saint Patrick's Athletic FC (aet)
For the third time in four seasons the cup final went to extra time following a 2-2 draw over 90 minutes. Northern Irish international Rory Patterson was Derry's hero, coming off the bench to score two goals, including the extra-time winner. "It's a great feeling – to come to Dublin and score the winner in the cup final is the stuff you dream about as a kid," said Patterson. "St Pats were a great side, they have been a fantastic team all season and they made us work very, very hard for the win. So we know we have beaten a very good team, but we were deserved winners on the day." Derry's players and manager Declan Devine paid special tribute to goalkeeper Ger Doherty, who attended the burial of his grandfather on the morning of the final and then made the 250km journey to Dublin to play in the game.

European places*
Sligo Rovers FC – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
Drogheda United FC – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round
Derry City FC – UEFA Europa League second qualifying round
Saint Patrick's Athletic FC – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round

*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the year: Mark Quigley (Sligo Rovers FC)
The Dublin-born forward had a frustrating start to the campaign as he struggled to get a regular place in the Sligo lineup and at the midway point appeared to be on his way out of the club. However, a season-ending cruciate ligament injury to top marksman Danny North in July returned Quigley, 27, to the side – as well as to the goals in the second half of term. His ten strikes helped Sligo to the championship while he also landed the players' player of the year award.

One to watch: Christopher Forrester (Saint Patrick's Athletic FC)
The talented midfielder made his senior debut with Bohemian FC in the 2011 season but he really blossomed in 2012 after a move to Dublin rivals St Patrick's. He hit seven top-flight goals for the third-placed team, including an exquisite lob in a 5-1 success against then reigning champions Shamrock Rovers FC which has become an online hit. "I had a great season with Pats but my dream is to play in England and hopefully I can get to do that," said Forrester, 19, who was voted the players' young player of the year.

Surprise package: Drogheda United FC
Top-flight survival was the aim for Drogheda United FC at the beginning of 2012 but Mick Cooke's men went on to have a stunning campaign. Drogheda finished second in the table and collected the League Cup, with manager Cooke earning widespread praise for working wonders and getting the best out of his players. The 2007 league champions will relish a return to UEFA competition as they look forward to UEFA Europa League qualifying.

Leading scorer: Gary Twigg, Shamrock Rovers FC (22 goals)

Relegated: None (Dundalk FC beat second-tier side Waterford United FC in a promotion/relegation play-off)

Promoted: Limerick FC

Number: 81
The number of Premier Division goals scored by Scottish striker Gary Twigg in his four terms with Shamrock Rovers. Twigg left the Dublin side to switch to Northern Irish outfit Portadown FC at the close of the 2012 season.

Quote
"I have won league titles with other clubs in Ireland but this win was the most special. We are the best footballing team in the country and we deserved to be champions."
Sligo midfielder and former Cameroon international Joseph Ndo shares his delight at the championship triumph.

Last updated: 14/11/12 11.57CET

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