Macdara Ferris reports from the Aviva Stadium
While Shamrock Rovers playmaker Jack Byrne didn't make the starting XI for Ireland's game against Bulgaria, when he got on the pitch for his international debut he played a significant part in securing the Republic of Ireland a 3-1 win.
His manager Mick McCarthy signposted Byrne’s involvement in games to come when he spoke in the post-match press conference.
"He's so effective when he's up the pitch,” said McCarthy about the 23-year-old. “If we need a goal and I need to change it I'll use him.”
Byrne earned that international appearance just before the hour mark when Ireland led 1-0. He showed his effectiveness in the Aviva as he has done for Rovers this season in the League of Ireland and in the Europa League.
It was a landmark appearance for Byrne as he became the 500th player to make a senior international appearance. He quickly got on the ball and looked to get involved dropping into pockets of space and picking out passes in front of the Bulgarian defence.
“I can’t put it into words what it means to me to be honest,” said Byrne speaking to Virgin Media Sport after the game. “Running out in front of my family and friends in my home city for the Irish senior squad is mad. It is an indescribable feeling.”
His 30 yard shot, just prior to Bulgaria’s equaliser on 67 minutes, flashed just wide but Byrne got the assist for the second goal seven minutes from time before then contributing to the third three minutes later.
When the opportunity for Byrne to take a corner from the left came, he swung it in perfectly for Kevin Long to connect to make it 1-1.
Byrne next played a one-two with James McClean before his precision pass got Enda Stevens in behind the Bulgarian defence. The Sheffield United player’s superb cross was then turned home by James Collins for his first international goal to wrap up the 3-1 win.
"It will go up in the gaf somewhere!" @Jackb_8 talks about what he's going to do with tonight's jersey, @ShamrockRovers, the LOI and more with @AnnMarie_Keegan after his @FAIreland debut. #IRLBUL #COYBIG #VMSport pic.twitter.com/hHvUcqWCIq— Virgin Media Sport (@VMSportIE) September 10, 2019
Having had to wait over a decade for a League of Ireland player to play for Ireland, there have been two capped in a little over a year.
Shamrock Rovers player Graham Burke made his debut against France in Paris just ahead of the World Cup, while his teammate Byrne now becomes the 64th Rovers player to be capped for the Republic of Ireland team.
He is now the fifth member of the current Hoops squad to gain senior international level experience alongside Republic of Ireland internationals Joey O’Brien and Graham Burke and Northern Ireland players Alan Mannus and Danny Lafferty.
“I owe it all to Shamrock Rovers, my teammates and people that have supported me. They have helped me get to this moment today. Hopefully it won’t be my one and only cap. Mick said go and enjoy it. I can’t thank him enough for this opportunity.”
As for what Byrne will do with his jersey? “I’m going to get it signed now and I’m going to give it to me Ma. It will go up in the gaff somewhere I’m sure!”