A lot of eyebrows were raised when Jack Byrne opted to move to Cyprus.
While most people expected him to leave Shamrock Rovers at the end of last season, a move back to England was probably what they had in mind. However, his game is arguably better suited to the continent.
Signing for APOEL Nicosia actually made sense on a number of levels. They are a club with a genuine European pedigree having played in the Champions League and Europa League groups stages on a number of occasions. They also had a manager Byrne knew well in Mick McCarthy.
However, the Irishman would lose his job a matter of days after his arrival. Despite this, Byrne is certainly enjoying his time in Cyprus.
Speaking as part of the launch of the SPAR FAI School Zone, the Ireland international said that McCarthy's sacking did come as a shock but that the 62-year old's presence at the club was far from the only reason he moved to APOEL.
Yeah it was (a shock), but that’s football.
I was in talks with the club for a while before I came out here, it didn’t just happen in one day. I had been speaking to the club and the president here and I got really good vibes off them. It wasn’t just Mick.
Obviously he was a big factor in me coming here because he was the man that gave me my international debut, but I knew coming out here in football it has happened to me so many times before.
At Wigan, before I was even fit to play a game Warren Joyce got the sack and I had signed a three-and-a-half year contract there. These things happen in football. You’re not going to have the same manager for more than two or three years most of the time.
It was assumed that international ambitions were a part of Byrne's motivation to move to Cyprus, and while that may have been aspect of his decision, a new challenge was something that he wanted to pursue.
The player himself believes he could still have become an Ireland regular while playing for Shamrock Rovers, but the opportunity to play European football on a consistent basis in a high pressure environment was something that was difficult to pass up.
If it wasn’t for Shamrock Rovers I wouldn’t have been in the Ireland squad, so it wasn’t a case that I needed to move to get into the Ireland squad or team.
Of course I want to play, of course I want to be in the team, but I know first and foremost that I have to get back fit and get back playing well. Being out here at a huge club like APOEL gives me the opportunity to hopefully play European football, win league titles over here, because that’s what this club is used to.
They don’t accept anything less, so it comes with the pressure of having to be at your best most weeks and win every game. That’s what I want.
That’s the type of pressure that I wanted and the challenge I was looking for. I think the opportunity that comes with this move is unbelievable.
Unfortunately for Byrne and APOEL, things have not gone quite to plan just yet.
The midfielder recently underwent back surgery that will keep him out of action for a number of weeks, while the club are finished outside of the top six in the first phase of their league and now will be unable to secure European football unless they win the cup.
Despite this, he remains optimistic about his long-term future at the club. Stephen Kenny has been in constant communication with the 24-year old, including after his recent injury setback.
It was something that didn't surprise Byrne, who said Kenny is brilliant with his players on a personal level.
Stephen, not just on a manager but on a human level, has always been really good with any of his players. If you talk to any of the lads that had him at Dundalk or any of the lads that had with Ireland, he will do that.
Before I got injured over here I spoke to him, asking me how I was settling in and how I was going, asking about the league. Just as a person, it shows the type of person that he is. It was nothing out of the ordinary for him.
Not many people would do that, but if you ask anybody about Stephen they would say he is a good person before he is even your manager. It was really nice of him to check up on me.
He is hoping to force his way back into the international fold, although he admits it will be difficult to do so in time for the June international window considering his recent operation.
Byrne is also looking forward to working with new Ireland staff member Anthony Barry once again having briefly been coached by him at Wigan Athletic, someone he describes a 'really, really good coach'.
First, he is focusing on establishing himself at APOEL. It is something he is confident of doing so.
He has already adapted well to a very different environment and is relishing the challenge of thriving in a culture he had previously never experienced.
It was probably the biggest challenge that came up. It was the one that stood out to me in that I was definitely going to grow as a person and learn, and I was going to work under a manager that had known me.
Obviously it wasn’t for too long, but the rest of the thinking in coming out here was that I’m going to learn a new way of life, a new culture, I’m going to play with players that I never would have gotten the chance to play with...
I’m still a young man and I can go and do something else, or even stay here for another seven years and finish my career here. It’s not as if I’m making a career decision at the end of my career to put my feet up and chill out. It’s not like that.
I’m coming here as a young man, I’ll be 27 when my contract finishes, I could sign a new one. I’m still young enough to then go and do something else and I won’t be afraid of doing that. Hopefully all going well I could stay here for a long time.
SPAR FAI School Zone was launched today by current Republic of Ireland footballer, Jack Byrne.
SPAR FAI School Zone is a new digital learning initiative that has been designed by the FAI and sponsored by SPAR for teachers and parents of primary school children in 4th, 5th and 6th class offering interactive and engaging lesson plans designed with both the classroom and home schooling in mind. Register SPAR FAI School Zone for today at: https://www.fai.ie/domestic/spar-fai-school-zone/register