Byrne dreading return to Dalymount after 'caption' controversy
SHAMROCK ROVERS defender Luke Byrne is "dreading" a hostile reception on his return to Dalymount Park tomorrow night, according to his good friend and Bohemians midfielder Keith Buckley who has moved to explain the context of an ill-judged picture which went viral after his winter switch between the Dublin rivals.
Shortly after the highly regarded left-back signed on the dotted line with the Hoops, an image of Byrne posing with a collection of €50 notes and a caption entitled 'F**k Bohs I follow the money' was circulated on social media.
That prompted uproar from furious Bohs fans, and Byrne anticipates a barrage of abuse in the big match of the Airtricity League weekend at Phibsborough.
The 20-year-old defended the picture in the aftermath, arguing that he had been set up and Buckley supported the argument yesterday, claiming that it arose from an online group chat between the Bohemians squad that was leaked to a Shamrock Rovers supporter by a departed player.
He says that the offending caption was not written by Byrne, but was subsequently added to the image.
"I won't say a name but someone on the team put it to his cousin who is a Rovers fan and sent it on," said Buckley. "The lads don't talk anymore. The fella is a messer and he put in the caption.
"You can ask any of the lads on the team last season. The caption was put in for the laugh and now they don't talk. Luke is quiet, from Howth, and down to earth. He didn't think the cousin would put it out on the internet.
"He's going to get it bad (on Friday)," continued Buckley.
"He's not the type of player who could work with that. Myself like, I'd have the banter and that but he's a shy lad. But he's so professional for a young lad, his head is in the right place and he'll cope with it. He's moved on to bigger and better things as he says himself but he will get abuse on Friday night. He knows it. He's dreading it."
Byrne, a recent call-up by Ireland U-21 boss Noel King, received the sympathy of many other players around the league and the pragmatic would acknowledge that the caption – wherever it came from – hinted at a simple truth given that no player in the League of Ireland is really in a position to turn down more attractive terms elsewhere.
"It's a merry-go-round in the league, nobody has loyalty really," concedes Buckley, who mixes his football commitments with early-morning shifts in the Windjammer, a pub that is well-known as an early-house option in Dublin's city centre.
Gypsies manager Owen Heary, who is planning without the influential Dave Mulcahy, is experienced enough in the business of these derbies to know that Byrne will get a rough time. "He didn't do it and it was malicious," he said, "(But) that's the rivalry between the two clubs.
"The fans don't mind it so much when the player moves but when you put something up, I suppose it just degrades the club that he is after being with. Then it becomes a problem."
Winger Karl Moore, who spent a brief time with Rovers but went to Dalymount in his youth and knows what these games mean to fans, reckons that Byrne was always going to be on the receiving end of grief – picture or no picture.
"It was amongst friends and one of them kinda stitched him up a bit which isn't a nice thing to do," he said.
"It rubbed people up the wrong way and they're football fans – they're entitled to their opinion if they pay in. Regardless of the picture, I'm sure he wouldn't be made feel welcome anyway," concluded Moore with a smile.