By Gerard Mulreaney (@gerardmulreaney)
Shamrock Rovers midfielder Jack Byrne saw his childhood dream come true at the Aviva Stadium last night, as he made his International Debut in the Republic of Ireland’s 3-1 win over Bulgaria.
The 23 year-old from Ballybough, in Dublin’s inner city, came off the bench in the 59th minute to replace Alan Judge. In doing so he became the 500th Senior men’s International footballer to play for Ireland, and the 64th Shamrock Rovers player to play for Ireland while still playing for the club.
His first touch as an International player was to play a square ball to fellow midfielder, and first Ireland goalscorer Alan Browne. Byrne was industrious from the outset, and even had an effort from distance shortly after coming on. He also showed his willingness to track back when he won the ball back outside his own penalty area.
Byrne certainly didn’t look out of place, and looked extremely at ease on the bigger stage.
He always wanted the ball, demanding it on occasions and showed he was comfortable, even in tight spaces. He played a brilliant ball into the box for James Collins, only to see the striker flagged for offside.
Byrne’s deliveries from dead-ball situations are lethal, and in the 83rd minute a corner from the right was swung in with his right-foot, and centre-back Kevin Long rose at the back post to head home. It was the Burnley mans debut goal.
Less than four minutes later and Byrne was instrumental in Ireland’s third goal. He played a ball out to former Shamrock Rovers man Ends Stevens, and he crossed for James Collins to score.
📺 Jack Byrne wrote his name into Irish football history last night on his debut, when he became the 500th Men's Senior International
— FAIreland ⚽️🇮🇪 (@FAIreland) September 11, 2019
Manager Mick McCarthy was full of praise for Byrne in the after-match press conference saying, “Jack Byrne lit the place up, to be fair, with his forward passing. He’s got that position to play, up behind James (Collins). I told him, ‘if I see you collecting it between the two centre-halves, I’m going to kick him in the hole’. He knows that I’m saying that with a glint in my eye, it’s a bit of a joke. But he’s so effective when he’s up the pitch, he’s got goals in him and he started threading balls.”
However he did utter a word of caution, “But let’s just put it in perspective because, would it be different if he was up against those big Swiss midfield players running off him? Absolutely. It’s horses for courses, and we needed to create something, he was excellent.”
Byrne himself couldn’t contain his delight saying after the game, “It’s mad it is, it’s indescribable. I can barely get my words out at the minute, I’m just buzzin. Obviously it’s a very proud moment for me and my family, especially to do it in Dublin. All my family and friends are there, just to get on the pitch is unbelievable, something you dream about as a kid. It’s hard to put it into words what it means to me and my family.”
As for what he was asked to do when he came on Byrne said, “Just to do what I normally do, to try and get on the ball, do what the game demands of me at whatever stage of the game. If I have to track back, track back, if I have to tackle, tackle, if I’ve to get on the ball and try and make an assist or a goal or have a shot. Just do what the game demands. I watched the game in the first half so I had a good idea of what way the game was going. I thought to myself if I can find myself high in areas then I might have a bit of luck to get a shot on goal or maybe a few crosses.”
When asked what he would do with the jersey Byrne said, “I’m going to get it signed, and it’ll go up somewhere in my Ma’s gaff, so yeah I’m delighted.”
You can catch Jack Byrne playing for Shamrock Rovers on Friday, September the 20th when they take on their Dublin rivals St Patrick’s Athletic at Tallaght Stadium, with an 8 o’clock kick off.
Picture Credit: FAI