Sport Hurling

Friday 24 November 2017

Where are they now?

Stephen Byrne
Stephen Byrne

Stephen Byrne (Former Offaly goalkeeper)

Although Offaly's Stephen Byrne was initially a reluctant goalkeeper, he grew to love the position and excelled there very quickly.

He was handed his first hurl when he was four and played his first competitive game five years later. For over three decades Byrne played between the posts and he saw at first hand the role of the goalkeeper evolve and develop over the years.

"It's probably the most difficult position on the field," explains Byrne. "You have a specific job and you have to work very hard. There was a time where a player would be told just to stand in the goals but things have really changed. There are a lot of important parts to the keeper's game, like puck-outs, they can really bring a team back into a match."

Byrne was part of a very successful underage Kilcormac-Killoughey team who dominated the Offaly county championship, winning five consecutive under 21 titles. And Byrne's talents between the posts didn't go unnoticed. While playing for the Offaly under 21s he was called into the county senior squad.

It was 1998 and Byrne was 21. Offaly went on to win an All-Ireland and Byrne won young player of the year and an All Star. It was a dream come true. He played for the county until 2004 and counts himself lucky to have been a part of the glory years of hurling. Although the last decade has been dominated by Kilkenny, he feels that hurling can return to the way it was in the 1990s.

"At the moment even in the league there are a few young teams coming up like Dublin, Clare and Waterford. There is a change coming, including ourselves; we'd be hoping to get back competing."

His management career started when he retired and he's been in charge of several club and county teams. He's now involved as a selector with Ollie Baker and the Offaly senior team.

"I'm loving being involved with the seniors, it's a different level and you do learn a lot, particularly when you have the likes of Alan Cunningham there who is a fantastic coach and Mark Corrigan. The boys are top-class and they are doing their best to try and get Offaly back in a position where they can compete at the top level."

Byrne will be in Croke Park today supporting his club Kilcormac-Killoughey in the All-Ireland club final and is hoping that the players keep their form and that they can do the business for their injured team-mate Dan Currams.

Irish Independent

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