Sunday 25 February 2018

Byrne needs game-time at Wigan to regain place in U-21 squad

Republic of Ireland's Jack Byrne. Photo: Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland's Jack Byrne. Photo: Sportsfile

John Fallon

This time a year ago Jack Byrne was regaling the Irish media about being good enough to merit a senior squad place but now he's not even part of Ireland's U-21s.

Noel King has justifiable reasons for axing the midfielder for the first time since he earned his debut a month after turning 18, the Ireland manager rattling off a list of peers playing regularly to support his selection for tomorrow's Euro qualification opener against Kosovo at Tallaght Stadium.

"Jack is available but hasn't featured for Wigan Athletic since joining them in January," explained King.

"He's doing fitness training to try boost his conditioning levels. Like any other player, he'll come back into contention for future squads if he gets back playing.

"We have lots of competition in midfield. Ryan Manning is doing well at QPR, our new captain Josh Cullen is a regular on loan at Bradford City from West Ham United and Connor Dimaio is getting games for Chesterfield."


At the time of his elevation to the full squad in the run-up to the friendly against Switzerland, Byrne was a regular on loan with Dutch club SC Cambuur.

The career trajectory of a teen long considered a future star at Manchester City was on track.

There were even murmurs of the Dubliner mounting a late push to become the bolter in Martin O'Neill's squad for the Euros such was the ease he showed in settling into his new environment.

Maintaining that progress this season has proved difficult. A campaign-long loan to Blackburn Rovers was cut short and Byrne, now 20, opted to extricate himself from the cosseted status of City U-23 mainstay.

Still, his choice of new challenge remains curious.

It is true that James McCarthy took time to bed in at Wigan but he retained the trust of Roberto Martinez throughout the idle early days in Lancashire and eventually flourished into a prize asset.

In contrast, the boss who handed Byrne a three-and-a-half-year contract in the final hours of the January transfer deadline, Warren Joyce, was sacked two weeks ago following a run which leaves them battling for Championship survival and the Irishman awaits his next appraiser.

Meanwhile, Derry City striker Ronan Curtis has made himself available for tomorrow's game despite the death of his team-mate Ryan McBride last Sunday.

"I've given Ronan as much space and time as needed this week to deal with the awful news about Ryan McBride," explained King. "He feels right to play and is available for selection."

Irish Independent

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