At the end of last season St Patrick’s Athletic winger Conan Byrne (pictured above with Ian Morris and Oscar Brennan) was forced to make the decision to leave the club he had served with distinction for 6 seasons.
When Harry Kenny took over the reigns from Liam Buckley the club announced that they would be moving training from the evening to the mornings, a situation Byrne found unworkable due to the fact he’s also a full-time schoolteacher.
So, instead of heading into a seventh season at Richmond Park Byrne moved across the city to Drumcondra to join Ian Morris’s revolution at Tolka Park.
Delighted to be back!! Big year ahead!! 👊⚽️ https://t.co/EYzMk1lUJw
— Conan Byrne (@conanbyrnecb7) November 16, 2018
He’s delighted to be back at a club he spent a couple of seasons at previously, but he knows it’s going to be a tough battle ahead, “It feels great to be back at the club. Being honest though, I certainly wasn’t reminiscing about it for too long as we have a massive job to do this year. It’s all about the present as a footballer and 2019 is a big year for Shelbourne. I would love to be part of getting the club back to the Premier Division but it certainly won’t be as easy as everyone thinks.”
“Shelbourne have been very busy off the field as well as on it and I am delighted to be associated with a club like Shelbourne once again. The club has developed wonderful initiatives for not only the supporters but for the players too and that has to be commended. It is too often players are seen as a commodity rather than as individuals do it’s refreshing to be part of a club that has the interests of the players at heart.”
Shelbourne start the season with an away trip to face Galway United at Eamonn Darcy Park on Friday night and after a long pre-season Byrne can’t wait to get going, “I cannot wait for the games to start. I’m an odd sort though in the fact I really enjoy pre-season. The preparation in terms of physical and tactical sessions hopefully will contribute to a good start for the club this year.”
Many people were surprised to see the winger drop down a division, however Byrne looks at it differently, “I am confident in my own abilities and I feel I am still able to play at the highest level in this country but with my profession as a teacher, I it forced to me to turn to a part time career. Having said that, I still think and act like a full time pro and that won’t change and I hope to pass that message on to the younger players at the club. Football at this level is 24/7 In terms of nutrition, sleep, hydration etc and it’s all vital for success. I had the opportunities to go to other part time clubs with better contracts but working under Ian and knowing the club from before made my decision easier.”
With the investment put into the club in the past 12 months, plus the re-build of the squad in the off-season, most observers feel that it’s Shelbourne’s title to lose. But while Byrne and his teammates will do their utmost to achieve promotion he says it won’t be the disaster many think should it not happen,
“I completely disagree with the thinking that if we don’t get promoted, it will see the demise of the club. The owner and CEO want to achieve something different with this club and we have seen that with the various press releases the club has issued over the last few months. It values it’s players, listens to its supporters and that will create a positive impact on the club from the senior teams (both men and women) right down to the academy. As a player though, I can only speak for what I believe in and that’s success. I want to get promoted, so do the managers and players but it’s not the be all and end all if we don’t.”
This season Byrne finds himself being two years younger that his new boss Ian Morris, so does that feel weird? “Absolutely not. Ian has come in and been absolutely brilliant. His transition has been like a duck to water. He has all the right attributes you want as a manager, approachable, good listener, communicator, motivator, positive, etc.”
“Just because I am older than him doesn’t affect anything. No matter who the manager is, they deserve your respect but with Ian and what he has achieved both abroad and in this country, he has earned it too.”
Morris 31, was both a first-team player and Youth Development Officer at Bohemians and was an extremely influential part of the clubs underage success for the past couple of seasons.
Conan is also one half of the official league podcast, the GreatestLeagueInTheWorld alongside Con Murphy, and they’ve just began season 2. He says while he enjoys it he’s still relatively a novice, “I love my work with the podcast but I am still learning the ropes. I have a tremendous mentor in Con Murphy and I don’t think I could learn off anyone better with the years of experience he has. We get on great both in studio and away from it so long may that relationship continue.”
Asked about his own personal goals for the coming season Conan replied, “Football is a team sport so I very rarely set personal goals. I want to win and so do my teammates, so promotion will be the goal, but we know we are in a very challenging division with some very good teams. It will not be like Limerick of 2016 or Waterford of 2017. It will be much closer and 4/5 teams can challenge. I can’t wait for it to start.”
It all begins on Friday night at Eamonn Darcy Park. In attendance on the night will be President Michael D Higgins, as Galway United supporters look to ‘Reclaim the Dyke’, which relate to the earliest era of League of Ireland football in Galway when followers walked up the Dyke Road together.
Picture Credits: Shelbourne FC, FAI