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Thursday 20 June 2019

No more roving as Jack happy at home

Boss Bradley says more to come from Byrne

TOP OF THE PILE: Shamrock Rovers’ Jack Byrne is pictured with his Airtricity/Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland Player of the Month award for March
TOP OF THE PILE: Shamrock Rovers’ Jack Byrne is pictured with his Airtricity/Soccer Writers’ Association of Ireland Player of the Month award for March

His cross-channel career had ground to a halt before things picked up with a move to Shamrock Rovers.

And that's why Jack Byrne says he's in no rush to leave the club, or the League of Ireland, even though his recent call-up to the senior Ireland squad makes him hot property.

The previous Ireland manager, Martin O'Neill, did cap Graham Burke while he was on the books of Rovers, though O'Neill made it clear to Burke that he needed a cross-channel move to sustain his Ireland career.

Burke did move away, to Preston, but loss of form led to the loss of his place in the Irish squad.

And Byrne, an unused sub in the Euro 2020 qualifiers against Gibraltar and Georgia, hopes he can still be an Ireland player while playing in Ireland.

"It's already led to something I would never have thought would happen so why can't it happen again?" says Byrne of his move to Rovers from Kilmarnock.

"Who is to say I need to go and play somewhere else, who is to say that option will even come up? I am happy here, I am enjoying my football and I got the rewards.

"It's been a long time since I had a run of games, since May, my last game for Oldham, I didn't really play until February so it was good to get the games under the belt, build fitness and sharpness."

Byrne was the stand-out player in the league in March, that fact recognised by his selection as player of the month by the SSE Airtricity Soccer Writers Association.

The bad news for opponents is that, in the eyes of Rovers manager Stephen Bradley at least, the 22-year-old has yet to hit peak form.

"I don't think we have seen the best of Jack, I really don't. We have seen better than what he has shown here," says Bradley, who reckons that a 2016 display from Byrne in the Dutch league against Feyenoord (when the player was on loan to Cambuur) showed what he is capable of.

"I know he has been very good, obviously his Ireland call-up and Player of the Month - and he deserves it. But I genuinely believe there is more to come from him."

Byrne has started every league game for a table-topping Rovers side this season, bar Finn Harps away, a match he missed as he was on Ireland duty.

Things have been stop-start in a busy career to date, those unfulfilled spells with Blackburn Rovers, Wigan, Oldham and Kilmarnock before the move to Rovers got him going again.

The club's form - six straight wins and an eight-point lead at the top of the table - have helped but Byrne, in action again tonight at home to Waterford, says focus is key.

"I have been there before where you start looking ahead and you take your eye off the ball, next thing you know you are being taken off after 60 minutes as you're having a stinker," he says.

"I am just thinking about trying to play well on Friday night, I need to keep playing well to stay in that squad.

"You take your eye off the ball, you start thinking about your next move: I'm not thinking about going here and there and it's paid off."

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