With the football season kick-off just days away, the players vying for the Irish league top goalscorer accolade look set to have a big say in the direction of the Gibson Cup this year. Which of them will end the season top of the pile in their own right?
Perhaps the best striker in the Irish League has joined forces with one of the league’s most attacking managers. Cliftonville fans will be eager to see how many Joe ‘the goal’ can contribute to the side this year under new boss Paddy McLoughlin. Gormley converted 22 times last season despite a prolonged goal-drought since the turn of the year. The quality of Cliftonville’s attack this season, as well as McLoughlin’s favoured playing style which so greatly benefited Michael McCrudden at Institute, is sure to result in plenty of chances for Gormley making him favourite to be this season’s top goal scorer.
Andrew Waterworth has become one of the Irish League’s most dangerous and experienced frontmen. Having singed for Linfield in 2013 after playing 214 games for Glentoran, Waterworth reached 150 Linfield goals in March 2019. He has been the League’s top goal scorer on three occasions and enters the 2019/20 season with European goals under his belt already – Waterworth scored all three Linfield goals in a 3-2 aggregate win over HB. Waterworth will be eager to secure his third league championship at Windsor Park, and his goals will be the best way to do it.
Over the past four season, Crusaders attacker Paul Heatley has scored an average of 19 goals a year. A joint-winner of the top goalscorer acolade in the 2015/16 season, Heatley will be striving to return to the top spot this year. Despite an underwhelming league campaign from the Crues last season, Heatley still converted 14 times throughout. With expectations high around Seaview this season, Heatley will be targetting at least double figures this season and bring the league championship back to north Belfast.
Linfield’s acquisition of Shayne Lavery was met with excitement amongst Linfield fans. Having experienced football at Everton’s youth academy and in Northern Ireland’s youth squads, Lavery is expected to make a big impact in the Irish League. A quick turn of pace and an eye for goal from the Linfield man may see him unlock Irish League defences time and time again this year.
A dangerous striker with experience both north and south of the border, David McDaid looks set to terrorize Irish League defenses throughout the country. McDaid has already done it at the highest standard with Cliftonville, scoring 51 goals in 113 games for the club before transferring to Waterford in the League of Ireland. Backed already in this market, McDaid has moved from 25/1 to his current 10/1 price. Having scored 28 goals in 37 games thus far for Larne, McDaid will certainly represent one of the league’s best and most proficient strikers this season.
Despite enduring a tough season with Coleraine last year, striker Jamie McGonigle for the third consecutive season. Under Oran Kearney, McGonigle represented one of the most dangerous forces in the league scoring 14 goals in the 2016/17 season, and 16 goals in the 2017/18 season. With Kearney back at the helm McGonigle will be eager to press on and deliver goals for the Bannsiders. With transfer rumours persistant over a potential move to Crusaders, McGoningle looks like good value at 14/1.
A steal at 25/1. The country’s top goalscorer in 2016/17 with 25 goals at Dungannon, Mitchell has scored 18 and 12 goals in his two seaons at Glenavon. Entering his third year and thoruougly embedded within the team, Mitchell will be eager to return to the heights of previous seasons. While it is unclear if the attacking quality is around to provide the supply for the striker, Mitchell remains the value pick in the race for top scorer.
A veteran of the Irish League, Curtis Allen is a consistent and dangerous striker. Despite a tough season for Glentoran as a club, Allen delivered 12 goals for the side – the previous three seasons saw him convert 16, 18 and 20 goals apiece. After a summer of investment, Glentoran represent an unknown quality for this season. Should the club’s new signings (such as Croation midfielder Hrvoje Plum and Dutch-u21 international Elvio Van Overbeek) provide service to Allen, the striker will be all too willing to oblige.