Byrne up for a survival battle
WITH FIVE league medals in his trophy cabinet, Jason Byrne is more accustomed to winning trophies than relegation battles.
Now in his 16th season of senior football, the 35-year-old is at the heart of a struggle to keep Bray Wanderers in the Premier Division and the side – buoyed by an away win over fellow strugglers Shelbourne on Monday – face a very stiff task tonight when they entertain a Sligo Rovers side which has dropped just five points from six away games this season.
Yet Byrne is adamant that he and his team-mates are up for the fight to stay in the division.
"It's a new scenario for me and I'm still not used to being in this situation, being at the bottom end of the table and trying to nick a goal or a win to get off the bottom instead of going for the league," said Byrne, who won titles with Shelbourne (2003, 2004, 2006) and Bohemians (2008, 2009).
"But I am a winner and I don't like seeing Bray down at the bottom of the table, so I will do all I can to help the side get away from the wrong end of the table.
"I don't think I ever lost that desire to win, I know that I'm no longer at a club that's going for the league and hoping to do well in Europe. We have other priorities now at Bray, but I still have the hunger to do well."
There was evidence of that earlier this month when Byrne vented his frustration after being substituted after an hour of action in a home defeat to Dundalk. "I was taken off early and I had a bit of a strop, I lost the head a bit," the former Cardiff City man admitted.
"It was just frustration at how things were going for me and for the team, I hate losing and I hate it when we play badly. I felt at the time that I shouldn't have come off so early, so I had that strop.
"I apologised to everyone afterwards, as a senior player at the club I should have known better, we have a lot of young lads in the team and they do look up to the senior players for leadership and I was out of order, but it was just a case of me being frustrated."
Byrne also admits to frustration at his lack of goals. Having started the season well, scoring three times in the first four games, Byrne has now gone nine games without a goal, a run that's hampered his bid to score his 200th league goal (he's currently on a career total of 195).
"It would be nice to get a goal or two and I do want to get to the 200-mark, but for now all I care about is winning games, the goals can come for me some other time," he said.
Bray have seen a lift in mood and morale this week as Pat Devlin's side ended a dismal seven-game losing streak by winning 2-1 away to Shelbourne on Monday.
And while their next test – at home to the league leaders and champions – is a tough one, Byrne said Wanderers will relish the chance to test themselves against a Sligo side who showed their class by beating Derry City 3-0 in their last game.
"Sligo are a quality side, just look at the quality that they have on the bench, never mind the starting 11," said Byrne.
"It won't be easy for us, we do have a lot of young lads in the side, especially at the back and our defenders are having to grow up very fast in a very tough league.
"But if Sligo come to our place and have their eye off the ball, we can cause them a few problems."