Handshakes all round as Hoops midfielder Jack Byrne enjoys joining up with Ireland squad

Wed, Mar 20 2019

Jack Byrne in action at Ireland training. Credit: Macdara Ferris (ETPhotos)

On arriving in to speak before the assembled media this morning, Shamrock Rovers midfielder Jack Byrne made the effort to shake the hands of every person in the room and say good morning. He smiled throughout the press conference and came across as someone who is very content with life at the moment and enjoying his football once again.

“It’s been a mad couple of days and I’m still trying to get my head around it,” Byrne said this morning before training.

“I’m delighted for Shamrock Rovers giving me the chance as well. I just want to get myself back on track and without Rovers and Stephen Bradley, Stephen McPhail and the other coaching staff none of this would have been possible so it’s great.

“I feel as if I’m getting better. I needed a couple of games to get going. I feel as if I’ve been getting to my level in the last two games and I’ve been happy in terms of meeting the standards I set myself.

Having learned his trade as a schoolboy with St. Kevin’s Boys, the same breeding ground as Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick, Byrne made the move to Manchester City at just age 15. A huge crossroads for teenage but one that the Dubliner felt was the right move at the time having weighed up each of the options that came his way.

Byrne made a blistering start to life in Manchester excelling at underage, receiving rave reviews on quite a regular basis especially playing in the UEFA Youth League for the clubs under-19 side. Shortly after he received glowing praise from Patrick Viera when he was in his role at City as the club’s Football Development Executive.

Viera said at the time “Sometimes people get it wrong between having a personality and being stupid and cocky. But Jack Byrne has personality. It’s part of his character and I’ve never had any issues with him. I love him more than anything else.'

The upward progression continued for Byrne with the Manchester club sending him on loan to Dutch club Camburr where the Dubliner scored four goals in 27 appearances in the Dutch top flight. It was during that time that he was invited by Martin O’Neill to join up with the Ireland camp for the friendlies against Switzerland and Slovakia.

Another loan spell beckoned for Byrne upon his return to England as Byrne joined Owen Coyle and fellow Irishmen Shane Duffy, Darragh Lenihan and Anthony Stokes at Blackburn Rovers. However  having made just four league appearances with the club and finding game time limited, Byrne’s loan deal was cut short as he returned to Manchester City.

It was the first time since departing St. Kevin’s that the brakes would slowly start to be applied on his professional progress and at 20 years of age, he made the decision to leave City. It was to be the start of an uncertain time as he made just two appearances with new club Wigan.

He had short spells with Oldham and Kilmarnock before joining Shamrock Rovers at the start of the current SSE Airtricity League season.

It was refreshing to hear the midfielder speak so honestly about his experiences over the last number of years and also interesting to hear in terms of his outlook and his footballing career, that he really is just taking it game by game now and not allowing himself to look too far ahead.

“I left Man City and signed a deal with Wigan and two or three weeks later the manager was gone that signed me - you can’t dwell on these things,” said Byrne.

“It was a big decision for me to leave Man City at the time. I could have easily stayed there and went back to the under-23’s or went back out on loan but I wanted to try and prove that I was ready for men’s football. The gamble didn’t pay off at the time unfortunately when I left for Wigan.”

The 22-year-old returned to Dublin and joined the Hoops where he has been very impressive with Rovers, helping the Hoops to five wins and a draw in their opening seven games. In a goalscoring performance last week, he picked up the man of the match award last Friday night against Sligo Rovers.

Thaw was under the watchful eye of Mick McCarthy. Byrne’s dominant midfield performance was this week rewarded with a phone call from McCarthy and he has really enjoyed the first few days within the camp.

“I didn’t know he {Mick McCarthy] was going to be there and I’m probably happy I didn’t know at the time because you’d start doing stuff that you wouldn’t normally do. It was a surprise when I got called up.

“I’m looking forward to the games and hopefully we can get a decent result on Saturday (away to Gibraltar) and go into the home game (against Georgia) with good backing. There’s nothing like the Irish support so if we can result at the weekend and take it into Tuesday I think it will hopefully go well.”

With things looking up again for the midfielder, he was asked about the possibility of getting another move across the water if he can continue to perform the way he has been in recent weeks.

Straight away Byrne closed the suggestion down and brought himself back to within the room, focussing on the here and now. A sign that the harsh realities and ruthlessness of modern day football has thought him a lot in recent years.

“To be honest I’m not even thinking about that, all I’m thinking of is training in half an hour. I’ve learnt that you can’t think like that and at the moment I want to do really well for Rovers. I’ll be taking it day by day and whatever happens happens.”