Owen Heary has been named the eircom/Soccer Writers Association of Ireland (SWAI) Personality of the Year for 2008 as a result of his achievement in captaining Bohemians to the league and FAI Cup double.
Heary, who is winning this award for the first time, has lent his considerable experience to a Bohemians defence which once again proved the meanest in the League of Ireland having conceded just 13 league goals. The league winners medal he collected this season was the sixth of his remarkable career. He was also winning the double for the second time.
32 year old Heary began his career at Kilkenny City in 1993. He then spent four seasons at Home Farm but later followed manager Dermot Keely to Shelbourne. It was at the Drumcondra club that Heary, an outstanding right back, really made his mark on the domestic game.
The Dubliner won his first league and cup double in the 1999/2000 season and never looked back from there. He kicked on to win further league titles with Shelbourne in the 2001/02, 2003, 2004 and 2006 seasons.
Indeed, the 2003, 2004 and 2006 successes came under manager Pat Fenlon's guidance and the pair renewed their working relationship to win the title again at Bohemians this year.
Heary stepped in to captain the Gypsies side early in the season owing to Kevin Hunt's injury-enforced absence. But he made the armband his own when Hunt shocked Bohemians fans by announcing his immediate retirement in July.
And after Bohemians swept all before them this term, Heary lifted the league trophy at Dalymount Park in October before raising the FAI Cup at the RDS at the end of November.
Heary collected his award for Personality of the Year at the eircom/SWAI annual banquet in the Hilton Hotel in Dublin's city centre. He beat off stiff competition from his club manager Pat Fenlon as well as Bohemians goalkeeper Brian Murphy, new Birmingham City midfielder Keith Fahey, Galway United manager Jeff Kenna and Sligo Rovers boss Paul Cook.
Heary paid tribute to Fenlon and his team-mates for helping him to win one of the few awards to have previously eluded him in glittering career.
There was also recognition on the night for Bohemians goalkeeper Brian Murphy who was named the Goalkeeper of the Year for 2008 after being short listed along with Derry City's Ger Doherty and Matt Gregg of UCD. Murphy - who won this award last year - enjoyed another outstanding season for the Gypsies and recently performed heroics by saving two spot kicks in the FAI Cup final penalty shootout win over Derry City.
Murphy also said his success would not have been possible were it not for Fenlon and his playing colleagues and gave a special mention to the club's goalkeeping coach Dermot O'Neill.
The 25 year old former Swansea City stopper could be returning across the water in the coming weeks as English and Scottish clubs are interested in his services.
Fittingly, Noel O'Reilly was honoured with the SWAI's Merit Award and his partner Rose McAllorum and Noel's family members were in attendance to accept. Irish football certainly lost one of its greatest characters and most influential coaches when Noel sadly passed away in September, aged 60, following a sudden illness