1 May 2016

Cups, Ups & Downs 2015/16

2014/15 - 2015/16 -2016/17
Club Appearances - Transfers (summer 2015 - January 2016) - Cups, Ups & Downs -

The domestic season is in it's closing weeks as our thoughts turn to the Euros, but which of the Northern Ireland squad will be traveling to France with a medals in their pockets or facing life in a different division come 2016/17?

Paddy McNair is likely to
be Northern Ireland's highest
finisher in English football
EUROPE
Paddy McNair was our only player to feature in European football beyond the preliminary stages. He was a non-playing member of the Manchester United side that exited the Champions League in the group stages then made a single appearance in the Europa League.

ENGLAND
Premier League
No Northern Ireland player came close to the Premier League title, or has qualified for the Champions League. Paddy McNair (Manchester United) and Steven Davis (Southampton) both made the Europa League places.

Norwich City have been relegated, so taking with them Kyle Lafferty who was a bit-part player for them throughout the campaign. No other Northern Ireland player has been relegated.

Championship
Burnley (who feature among their squad Michael Duff, Daniel Lafferty, Luke Conlan and Cameron Dummigan) have secured an immediate return to the Premier League as champions.

The play-off places went to BrightonHull City (Alex Bruce), Derby County (Chris Baird) and Sheffield Wednesday (Caolan Lavery). Hull and Wednesday will meet in the decider at Wembley.

Neil Lennon could not save the financially stricken Bolton Wanderers from relegation and he left the club with two months of the season remaining. MK Dons made an immediate return to League One taking with them Ben Reeves and Lee Hodson. They will be joined by Charlton Athletic for who young Mikhail Kennedy made a handful of appearances this season.

Will Grigg has scored over
twenty goals for Wigan
League One
Will Grigg's goals have fired Wigan Athletic back to the Championship for next season with Burton Albion (Robbie Weir and Tom Flanagan) joining them after coming second.

Shane Ferguson's Millwall defeated Rory McArdle's Bradford City in the play-off semi-final and will face Barnsley in the promotion deciding final

Colchester United will be taking young Jamie Harney down to the bottom tier of the English League next season where they will be joined by Blackpool (Martin Paterson) and Doncaster Rovers (Luke McCullough). Conor McLaughlin at Fleetwood Town has secured his third-tier status for another year.

League Two
David Buchanan has helped Northanpton Town to the League Two title. They will be joined in League One by Mark McChrystal's Bristol Rovers. Accrington Stanley (Billy KeeShay McCartan and Andy Little, on loan from Preston) missed out on automatic promotion on goal difference and lost in the play-off semi-finals. Adam McGurk's Portsmouth also exited the play-offs at the first hurdle.

Michael Ingham, Josh Carson (both York City) and Matt McClure (Dagenham & Redbridge) will be leaving League football behind following relegation to the National League.

The Cups
Manchester United claimed the FA Cup but Paddy McNair did not feature in the competition for them at all.

No Northern Ireland player advanced beyond the quarter-finals of the League Cup.

In the League Trophy Shane Ferguson and Conor McLaughlin bowed out in the Southern and Northern area finals (aka semi-finals) with Millwall and Fleetwood respectively.

Jordan Stewart will be hoping to end his first season in English football with an appearance for Grimsby Town in the FA Trophy final.

SCOTLAND
Premiership
Celtic have all-but wrapped-up their fifth consecutive title, though Niall McGinn's Aberdeen have put up a spirited challenge and have guaranteed themselves a Europa League spot for next season.

Billy McKay's goals and Paul Paton's midfield play couldn't save Dundee United from relegation to the Championship. Josh Magennis and Lee Hodson (on loan from MK Dons) face Falkirk in the play-off final in a bid to save their Premiership status.

Dean Shiels has helped Rangers win the
Championship and Challenge Cup with
the Scottish Cup final still to come
Championship
Rangers (along with Dean Shiels) will return to the top-tier next season after four seasons away. Rory McKeown's Raith Rovers qualified for the Premiership play-offs, but lost out in the quarter-final to Hibernian

Michael Duffy has been playing on loan at relegated Alloa Athletic.

Cups
Dean Shiels' Rangers lost out to Hibernian in the Scottish Cup final. Shiels did claim a Challenge Cup winner's medal having come on as a substitute in Rangers' 4-0 final win over Peterhead.

The League Cup was claimed by Ross County who defeated Hibernian in the final with the help of Liam Boyce.

NORTHERN IRELAND
Colin Coates has captained Crusaders
to consecutive Gibson Cup wins
Premiership
Crusaders claimed a consecutive Irish League title for the first time with a squad featuring full internationals Colin Coates and Jordan Owens along with a number of current and former Under-21s. Second were Linfield led by rookie manager David Healy while Gary Hamilton's Glenavon achieved automatic Europa League qualification by finishing third.

Liam Bagnall was part of the Warrenpoint Town side who were unlucky to be relegated on the final day of the season. Ivan Sproule's Ballinamallard United relegation play-off against Institute is currently in an uncertain state.

Championship 1
Ards claimed the title and a return to the top-flight with a team including ex-Under-21 internationals Gary Browne and John Convery. Gary Smyth's Harland & Wolff Welders finished runners-up but don't hold a promotion licence and neither do third and fourth placed teams, Armagh and Knockbreda, so the promotion play-off place went to fifth placed Institute.

Three big names in local football will be dropping into the new Premier Intermediate League next season with Donegal Celtic and Lisburn Distillery relegated to the third tier and Bangor also demoted having failed to attain a Championship licence.

The Cups
Gary Hamilton led Glenavon to the Irish Cup as the defeated Linfield in the final at Windsor Park.

The League Cup was won by Cliftonville for a fourth successive year as a team featuring Conor Devlin, Martin Donnelly and Jay Donnelly defeated Ards 3-0 at Solitude.

A Co. Antrim Shield win was not enough to save Glenn Ferguson's job as Ballymena United manager. They defeated Linfield 3-2 in the final at Windsor Park with a team including Alan Blayney, Tony Kane, Jim Ervin and Paddy McNally.
Darren Meenan was a 2015
"Double" winner with Dundalk

Dungannon Swifts (Matt Hazley and Chris Hegarty) claimed the Mid Ulster Cup with a final win over Armagh. The North West Cup was won by Limavady United against Coleraine.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (2015)
League of Ireland Premier Division
The 2015 League of Ireland title was won by Darren Meenan's Dundalk. 

Cups
Dundalk also won the FAI Cup, defeating Cork City in extra-time.

AUSTRALIA
Aaron Hughes helped Melbourne City to the semis of the ASL Finals Series but has now been released.

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