Byrne hails Rovers run in Europe
But ex-Hoop hopes to catch champs off-guard
TALLAGHT man Jason Byrne says he does not begrudge Shamrock Rovers their European success despite a series of near-misses for the striker.
But any admiration that Byrne has for Rovers will be put to one side tonight as his Dundalk side try to stall the Hoops in their bid for a second successive league title.
Byrne made 26 European appearances in his spells with Bray Wanderers, Shelbourne and Bohemians and with 10 Euro goals on his CV, he shares with Glen Crowe the scoring record for a player at an Irish club.
But the veteran striker never got the chance to play in the group stages of a UEFA competition, going close with Shels in 2004 but failing to achieve what Rovers have done in recent weeks.
"You have to admire Rovers for what they have done and there's no way that I, or any other player, can begrudge what they have done," Byrne said as he prepared to face Rovers at Oriel Park this evening.
"Of course I'd have loved to get there myself as a player. We went close a few times but just fell short, so I'd love to see Rovers go on and do even better. It's only good for the league and Irish football if they can do well and give the league some profile.
"I do regret that I never got to play in a group stages with a club but I wish Rovers all the best in their games. As a Tallaght man, it's brilliant for the area to see teams like Rubin Kazan and Spurs coming to Dublin to play."
But Byrne's generosity to Rovers will stop this evening as Dundalk try to catch the champions off-guard, the hope for Dundalk being that Rovers are switched off from domestic action with heads turned by Euro glory.
"We could catch them with their eye on Europe, it's hard to know how Rovers will approach this game," says Byrne. "The players could go into this game, and the next few games in the league, hoping to avoid injury ahead of the European game in two weeks, or maybe they will be trying hard to impress Michael O'Neill and play themselves into the team. It's hard to know.
"I've been there and done that, you play a big European game in midweek and you have to come back down to earth with the bread and butter of the league or the FAI Cup.
"You try and be professional and stay focused but as a player you can get distracted by Europe, so we hope that Rovers are a bit off-focus tonight."
Europe is one of the aims for Dundalk this season -- with a place in the last eight of the FAI Cup secure, a Cup run and a Europa League berth via the FAI Cup a possibility, but Byrne says that the side are aiming to finish high in the league.
"At the start of the season, our target was to qualify for Europe and that hasn't changed," says Byrne.
"We have drawn a lot of games, too many games really, but if we can turn wins into draws, starting here at home to Rovers, we could start moving up the table."