Byrne out to lose 'New Shels' label
A WEEK after Bohemians' crushing Champions League exit at the hands of a Welsh outfit, the Gypsies players emerged from the tunnel of their Dalymount Park home to be greeted by a banner displaying three letters that will forever haunt them -- TNS.
The New Saints, their conquerors on that fateful night, will prove an irremovable blemish on Bohs' proud history.
That night in Dalymount, unsympathetic St Patrick's Athletic fans had decided, rather deviously, to make the letters stand for 'The New Shels'.
It is a phrase that is on the lips of so many domestic soccer fans as the Phibsborough outfit begin to realise the financial price of League of Ireland success, as did Shelbourne, who face Bohs tonight in the FAI Cup fourth round, just a few short years ago.
Jason Byrne, who played at Tolka Park before the club crumbled under the weight of huge debts, can only pray that the Saints fans are wrong in their ominous prophecy.
"Hopefully, it will not happen," replied the former Cardiff striker, when it was put to him.
"Shels were a great club and I had some great years there.
"But I hope it doesn't go the way Shelbourne did. It's a pity they are in the first division because they are a premier division club, but if things are not done properly off the field, these are the things that happen."
One of the greatest strikers this league has ever seen -- with 168 goals and counting -- Byrne was there before, during and after the days when players' four-figure weekly wage-packets often exceeded the number of supporters they were performing in front of.
"That's the price of success if you want to bring the league on and bring the best players here. It comes at a price," he said.
"We thought we'd make it to the next stage of the Champions League, but it hasn't happened.
"We have taken a step back and that is not good for the league. It is a good league as a whole, but when you see some of the things happening off the pitch it gets a bad name."
His own club are currently the ones creating negative headlines in domestic football, with some suggesting that Bohemians need to win the league and the FAI Ford Cup if they are to sustain the payment of wages this year.
But 32-year-old Byrne insists that it is not down to the players to keep a club alive and maintains that they will keep their focus firmly within the white lines.
"It's not the first time it has happened to me and probably for most of the lads. We have players who were at Drogheda so it's probably water off a duck's back to them.
"It's the young lads who are probably not used to it. We just have to get on with it.
"We have won so many things in the last few years and we are still in this position. It doesn't really matter, we just want to do it for ourselves and have a bit of pride.
"At the start of the season we were not worried about money, we were worried about winning things and I think that is still our aim."