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Bradley sure Byrne will return to Ireland set-up as focus back on Hoops


Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley and midfield maestro Jack Byrne

Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley and midfield maestro Jack Byrne


Shamrock Rovers manager Stephen Bradley and midfield maestro Jack Byrne

Stephen Bradley hopes that a spell training with the Ireland side will not be a one-off for his midfielder Jack Byrne.

But the Rovers boss claims that Byrne has yet to reach his peak and he insists there's a lot more to come from the 22-year-old.

Byrne didn't get to play in the Euro 2020 games against Gibraltar and Georgia, and with absentees like James McCarthy, Callum O'Dowda and Alan Browne likely to be available, following injury, for the next bout of Ireland games in June, it's going to be a battle for Byrne to get back into Mick McCarthy's plans.

Ireland coach Robbie Keane is a regular visitor to the Rovers training ground and all of the FAI staff, including McCarthy, have been to see the Hoops play, so Bradley says there's no reason why Byrne can't aim to be in the senior squad again - once he keeps making progress and does not drop his standards.

"By all accounts he was really good, the level is not an issue for him and he needs to keep performing for us to put himself into consideration for that in June," says Bradley ahead of his club's game at home to UCD tonight.

"I genuinely believe he will only get better for us.

"Jack feels he can contribute to any team, that's the confidence he has.

"Being part of the group, around that atmosphere and seeing how they prepare, being part of a team that has won two games and done well, being part of that is special, so he gets it, he understands it but has to keep working hard for us and keep up the performances that got him there in the first place.

"Did he deserve the call-up? I think he did, if you look at his performances.

"But I still genuinely see him playing a lot better than he has shown in this league against top opposition. I remember one game, I think it was against Feyenoord a few years ago, I went to watch him and he was unplayable.

"I know there is so much more, he can get fitter and stronger and when he does that, gets more minutes under his belt, he can run games," added Bradley, relieved that the gamble of playing Finn Harps last week, even though three players were away on international duty, did not backfire as they got the win which put them seven points clear.

"We have given ourselves a chance to stay with the other two. We haven't done that the last few years," he says, expecting a challenge from Dundalk and Cork City.

UCD are the opposition at Tallaght Stadium tonight but despite a very impressive defensive record (five straight clean sheets), it's more than plámás when Rovers say they are wary.

Hoops midfielder Greg Bolger credits with UCD for turning him into the player he became.

"When I came to UCD, I was 17," says Wexford lad Bolger, who won a First Division title in his four seasons with College.

"I was a late developer, at 14 or 15, I was a little fat right full, so I was still learning the game. When I went to Cherry Orchard and UCD, it was Paul Somers, Eddie Wallace, Martin Russell and Pete Mahon who had a great influence on me. It's a great place to learn your football and learn your trade."