This past month in the League of Ireland Premier Division has seen Cork City tighten their grip on the title, even accounting for the end of their winning run.
John Caulfield’s side were held to a 1-1 draw at Eamonn Deacy Park by Galway United, and what remains the slightest blip on the seemingly unstoppable charge to a first league title win in over a decade.
The teams in the relegation dogfight continued to jostle for breathing space, with Bohemians, Finn Harps, Drogheda United, Sligo Rovers, St. Patrick’s Athletic and Galway United all continuing the battle to keep their heads above water.
So which players stood out from the crowd in May?
Conor O’Malley (St. Patrick’s Athletic)
Conceded five goals in as many games in May (which for a goalkeeper in a relegation-threatened team is a brilliant return), O’Malley’s performances in May prevented the situation for Liam Buckley’s side from becoming worse. The 22-year-old turned in a number of eye-catching displays, particularly in the 1-1 draw against Sligo Rovers.
John Dunleavy (Cork City)
The Cork City captain looks to have put his injury nightmare behind him and settled back into the Leesiders’ defence, making an already strong defence even better in the process. Be it on the right or in the centre, his leadership was a key component in a back four (and goalkeeper) that conceded three goals in five games.
Niclas Vemmelund (Dundalk)
While much of the pre-season focus was on the signing of Sean Hoare as a replacement for Andy Boyle, Vemmelund has gone relatively under the radar and looks to have formed an effective partnership with Paddy Barrett, at the expense of Hoare and Brian Gartland. With just one goal conceded in six games in all competitions, the 24-year-old is proving to be yet another astute bit of business from Dundalk boss Stephen Kenny.
Ryan Delaney (Cork City)
Delaney’s third time appearing in this collective, and fully deserving of it. The 20-year-old has gone from strength to strength at Turner’s Cross as the season has progressed, and has even added goals to his game with three more over the course of May, including two against Shamrock Rovers.
With Sean Maguire and Kevin O’Connor departing next month, John Caulfield will be desperate to keep hold of another of his star performers until the end of the season.
Aaron Barry (Derry City)
Derry City have picked up the pieces following the tragic loss of captain Ryan McBride earlier in the campaign, and their season is on the brink of (in a footballing sense at least) becoming the success that it looked like it could become. A large part of this is their strong defence, with Aaron Barry proving his versatility in a number of positions, be it in a three-man or four-man defence.
Conor McCormack (Cork City)
John Caulfield conducted some fantastic transfer business in pre-season, but McCormack is surpassing all expectations in the Cork City midfield. The former Derry City man added his first goal of the season in May’s 1-1 draw at Galway, but his overall work-rate and organisation have seen him stand out once again.
Barry McNamee (Derry City)
With Rory Patterson sidelined through injury, players such as Barry McNamee and Aaron McEneff (more on him below) have really stepped it up. The former has been a highly effective performer in the Derry City midfield and although he hasn’t quite been able to follow up on the goals since his March hat-trick against Drogheda, his performances overall have not suffered for it.
Gearoid Morrissey (Cork City)
Morrissey maintained his brilliant performances of April throughout, scoring two more goals in the process. In a Cork City midfield in which competition is fierce, the 25-year-old has been a model of consistency and reliability. His escalation to the next level is gaining momentum.
Aaron McEneff (Derry City)
A record of six goals and four assists this season speaks for itself, but McNamee has nonetheless been a major driving force in Derry City revitalising their season. The 21-year-old scored three of those goals last month and looks like he will have a huge role to play in the side’s battle for Europe.
Trevor Clarke (Shamrock Rovers)
Rattled in a goal of the month contender against Cork City at Turner’s Cross, but even aside from that it has been a very productive month for Clarke. The 19-year-old has taken to his role on the right like a duck to water, and even while Shamrock Rovers themselves have been inconsistent, the 19-year-old can be more than happy with his own performances.
Sean Maguire (Cork City)
League of Ireland audiences will have to enjoy Sean Maguire while they can, as the 23-year-old is set for another crack at England when he joins Preston in July. Maguire continues his fine scoring record in May, with four goals in five games putting Cork City in a great position to end their decade-long wait for a Premier Division title.
On this week’s edition of the Mixer Irish Football podcast, we spoke to former Ireland international Joe Gamble as well as looking ahead to Martin O’Neill’s side’s clash against Austria this weekend.