Football

'It’s Been A Mad Couple Of Days And I’m Still Trying To Get My Head Around It'

'It’s Been A Mad Couple Of Days And I’m Still Trying To Get My Head Around It'

On Friday night Jack Byrne produced a moment showcasing the talent many believe he possesses. From the edge of the Sligo Rovers box, he brilliantly curled the ball into the top corner beyond the reach of Mitchell Beeney, capping a 3-0 win for Shamrock Rovers.

Seated in the stand at Tallaght Stadium was Mick McCarthy and his assistant Robbie Keane. Two days later, following an injury to Callum O'Dowda, Byrne was called up to the Ireland squad for the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Gibraltar and Georgia.

It is just three-and-a-half months since Byrne signed for Shamrock Rovers, returning to Dublin after time at Manchester City, Wigan and Kilmarnock.

"It’s been a mad couple of days and I’m still trying to get my head around it," Byrne said at an Ireland team press conference on Wednesday.

"I’m delighted to be here.

"I just wanted to do well and get back on track. Without Rovers and Stephen Bradley, Stephen McPhail and the coaching staff there, I don’t think it would have been possible to be here.

"I feel as if I’m getting better with the games. I needed the games, I needed a couple of games to get going. The last two games, I’ve been getting to my level. Before that, I was quite tired."

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Byrne did not know McCarthy was going to be in attendance at Friday's game. In fact, he's glad that he didn't. "You’d probably start doing stuff that you wouldn’t normally do," he said.

He has had to adjust to the tempo of the training sessions but Byrne has settled in well - he already knew a number of the other players in the 23-man squad.

"It’s good for the younger players in the league," said the midfielder of the call-up.

"I’m only 22 as well. It’s good for the likes of Trevor Clarke and Brandon [Kavanagh]. They can see that there’s a pathway to international football."

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Prior to Euro 2016, Byrne trained with the Ireland senior team ahead of the tournament. On loan at Dutch side Cambuur from Man City at the time, his career was progressing well. He was certainly one of the brighter young talents in Irish football. There subsequently came a fall.

"I left Man City and I signed for Wigan, a three-and-a-half year deal. Two or three weeks later, the manager who signed me was gone," said Byrne.

You can’t dwell on these things. You never think that’s going to happen when you’re in that situation. It was a big decision for me to leave Man City at the time. I had two years left on my contract. I could have easily stayed there and gone back to the U23s or gone back on loan to Holland.

I wanted to prove that I was ready for men’s football. The gamble didn’t pay off. Sometimes you just have to reset, take one step back and two steps forward. I’m grateful that I’m back, touchwood, playing well again.

The possibility that he might return to English football is one the Dubliner says he is not contemplating at the moment.

"I’m not even thinking about that. I’m just thinking about training in half an hour. You can’t think like that. You take it day by day. I want to do well for Rovers. Whatever happens, happens."

Photo by Sportsfile

See Also: Sky-High Confident Doherty Happy To Be Playing Under McCarthy Again

PJ Browne
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