From defence to attack, Shaun Rooney showed why he deserves to be in contention for Inverness Caley Thistle player of the year
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Inverness Courier sports editor Will Clark argues how full back Shaun Rooney bulleted from the back to the front of the queue to be his Inverness Caledonian Thistle player of the year.
SHAUN Rooney always looked like a full back who wishes he was playing on the wing in midfield.
Maybe that is why he fitted into the attack minded philosophy at Caley Thistle over the last two years so well.
But this season, he has received just as much credit for his performances in defence as he has for his trademark bursts of runs which caused panic in the opposition defence throughout the campaign.
No doubt his all round game has improved significantly this season which caught the eye of St Johnstone and sealed his move to the Premiership.
He is another example of a player who came to Inverness with a point to prove and has earned his chance in the top flight next season.
The 23-year-old who arrived from Queen of the South in 2018, got this season off to a false start after suffering an ankle injury during pre-season against Aberdeen when he lasted only four minutes on the park keeping him out for six weeks.
But when he returned from injury, the big defender certainly made his presence felt.
At the back, he proved to be a reliable presence to fight in the air and clear the ball away from danger.
He played a huge part in developing a tight unit with centre backs Coll Donaldson and Jamie McCart during the first half of the season before working well with Brad McKay and Kevin McHattie after the January transfer window.
At set pieces, he knew where was the right place to be at the right time.
As reliable as he has been in defence, he also proved to be a threat in the opposition box.
He was often the target man for the likes of free kick takers, where he would often beat the defence in the air to get his head to the ball first and often test the opposition goalkeeper.
But with credit to his qualities in the defence and in the air, the one thing that stood out was his electrifying burst of pace, creating opportunities for team mates and ball control that made fans get off their seats.
Anyone who was at Somerset Park in October will still remember his lung busting 40 yard run from the right wing before cutting into the penalty box and firing a low drive into the net in a 2-0 win over Ayr United. (Scroll video to 5:10)
A 6ft 3 man isn’t always characterised as being a graceful footballer.
But Rooney showed many times this season he had that in his locker as well as using his physicality when required.
That is what probably caught the eye of former St Johnstone manager Tommy Wright to bring him to McDiarmid Park.
Other honourable mentions for player of the year include James Keatings, who was an engine in midfield and showed being a dead ball specialist was a vital weapon for Inverness this season.
David Carson was the surprise package of the campaign, an unknown signing from Morpeth Town whose workmanlike performances in the centre of the pitch won him many plaudits.
But for the influence in defence as well as attack, I have to name Rooney as my top man at Caley Thistle this season.
He’s earned his place as a Premiership player. It is only regrettable he won’t be able to say goodbye to Caley Thistle by at least trying to bring them up with him next season.
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