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Byrne's desire


A VETERAN OF more than 350 first-team games in England, former Ireland U21 cap Clifford Byrne says he turned down the chance to stay on in the English scene because he wanted to sign up for a stint in the League of Ireland with Derry City.

Derry manager Roddy Collins has made a couple of interesting additions to his squad for his first season in charge at the Brandywell, with a mixture of old heads (Sligo stalwart Danny Ventre and former SPL regular Mark Stewart) and youth (Enda Curran, an exciting prospect signed from Collins' former side Athlone Town).

Defender Byrne certainly adds experience from his 12-year stint as a first-team footballer across the water, the majority of his 386 competitive games coming in the shirt of Scunthorpe United.

Having left his native Dublin to join Sunderland way back in 1998, Byrne never imagined he would end up in the League of Ireland, but the 31-year-old says it was his choice to try his luck here once his time at League One side Oldham Athletic was up.

"I had a couple of options in England and I could have stayed on over there, but once I spoke to Roddy at Derry City, I knew I wanted to come here," Byrne told the Herald.

"I was speaking to Graham Kavanagh at Carlisle United and I had an offer from another club over there, but the idea of playing in the league back home really appealed to me.

"I never played in the League of Ireland before, but I always kept an eye on it, lads who were teammates of mine, like Mark Rossiter and Gary Dempsey, did well in the league, so I always had an idea of what was going on and now I have a chance to play in the league.

"It's all new to me – Derry's first game of the season is away to Shamrock Rovers, so that should be interesting, me as a Dubliner going to Tallaght to play for Derry. I can't wait," he added.


Derry City have a long-established tradition of bringing in Dublin-born players, back to the treble-winning side of 1989 which was based around players like Mick Neville and Paul Doolin, to the Dubs in the Derry side of 1997, the last City team to win the league (Tony O'Dowd, Richie Purdy, Tommy Dunne) and more recent imports like Clive Delaney, Ken Oman and Simon Madden.

But Byrne insists he is not turning up in Derry just for the wage packet.

"I know I have a lot to prove, I can't come over here and expect to walk into the team and dominate just because I have played a lot in England," he admits.

"This is a fresh challenge for me, I will be playing against teams I am not used to, in grounds that I have not been to before, and I know that the standard here in the league is still very high. I have already seen the standard in training at Derry, so I know it will be demanding."

Byrne began his career with Sunderland but left without making the first team, though he enjoyed success with Scunthorpe, where he spent most of his career bar a recent spell with Oldham.

"We had good times there, we won a couple of promotions and I got to Wembley a few times," says Byrne.

"I have had a successful career so far, but moving to Derry is a real chance for me to win medals as I'd like us to be competitive this season."