"It would be a dream come true" - Jack Byrne on possible Ireland debutMon, Sep 09 2019
Macdara Ferris reports from FAI HQ
Back in March, Jack Byrne was part of the Republic of Ireland squad for the matches in Gibraltar and at home to Georgia. While he missed out on the qualifiers in June, the Shamrock Rovers playmaker seems to be very much part of Mick McCarthy’s plans and looks set to make a “dream” debut for Ireland in Tuesday’s Aviva friendly.
“There will be some changes against Bulgaria,” said McCarthy on Sunday, which is a signpost for Byrne along with James Collins and John Egan on their involvement with the Boys in Green this week.
“Those who have travelled with us for the five competitive games without playing know that some of them will get their chances to impress in this match.”
Speaking to the media ahead of the Bulgaria game, Byrne admits that “it would be a dream come true” if he was capped on Tuesday. The Shamrock Rovers player was the unlucky 24th man in McCarthy’s squad who wasn’t part of the 23 man match day squad against Switzerland last week.
It meant he missed out on the chance to become the first League of Ireland player to play in a competitive game for Ireland since Pat Byrne in 1985. However he now looks set to follow in his club teammate Graham Burke’s footsteps in getting capped for Ireland – Burke was the first LOI player in a decade to get a cap when he played against France last year.
“I was disappointed,” said Byrne about not being in the squad for the 1-1 draw against Switzerland. “But I’m a fan first and foremost. It was an honour to be involved and be in the dressing room before and after and seeing how happy everyone was. It would be an unbelievable honour (to get a cap) and it would probably be the proudest day of my life.”
Byrne has starred this season for Shamrock Rovers in domestic action with the Hoops set to finish runners up in the League of Ireland. In Europe he particularly stood out, scoring once and getting five assists in Rovers’ four Europa League qualification matches.
“Without Shamrock Rovers I wouldn’t be sitting here. I love the club. I love playing for the club. The manager (Stephen Bradley) has been unbelievable for me along with Stephen McPhail and Glenn Cronin - these people have been great.”
Byrne’s form inevitably means that there is talk of a move away from the League of Ireland but the 23-year-old isn’t ruling out being at Rovers next season.
“I don’t see why not. I don’t see it as a negative if I am. If somebody came in and spoke to Rovers and they wanted me to go, it has to be right for me at that stage but I’m not thinking of that. It would be disrespectful for me to talk about a move and to be honest I’m not thinking about it.
“At the moment I’m really enjoying it (at Rovers). I’ve good coaching staff, my family and good people around me. I’m keeping my head down, working hard and seeing where that takes me. Things are going well and that is showing on the pitch.”
And if a move eventually came about it might not necessarily be to England he says. “I played in the top division in Holland and that is what got me training with the (Ireland) senior team the first time. It isn’t England or nothing. It is about the best place for me to play my football if the opportunity comes up.”
The Hoops struggled to break down Galway United last Friday in the FAI Cup quarter-final. Without the missing Byrne the Hoops needed an injury time winner from Lee Grace.
“I talked to the (Rovers) players after the game. It was great to get a last minute winner. To get into semi-final of the cup is brilliant and hopefully we will get a decent draw in the semi and we can give it a good go.”