Monday 17 June 2019

'There was some mad stuff going on there. The grass in the training ground wasn't cut so we couldn't train there'

Jack Byrne of Shamrock Rovers. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile
Jack Byrne of Shamrock Rovers. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Stephen Bennett

Shamrock Rovers playmaker Jack Byrne has reflected on a series of UK moves that almost ruined his career.

Byrne (23) moved to Manchester City from Dublin schoolboy club St Kevin's Boys as a 15-year-old back in 2012.

The Dubliner's career seemed to be on an upward graph after a successful loan spell with Dutch Eredivisie club Cambuur in the 2015-16 season.

Byrne, however, regrets not staying longer in the Netherlands after what followed.

Another loan move from City, this time to Blackburn Rovers yielded just four games before Byrne made yet another loan switch to nearby Oldham in 2017.

Byrne then made his loan move to Boundary Park permanent in January 2018.

"I shouldn't have gone back there. I'd bought a house in Manchester. I'd signed for Wigan the January before. I had three and a half years on my Wigan deal and I was thinking that was going to be my home," said Byrne, speaking on this week's LOI Weekly podcast.

"It had been my home before that when I was at Manchester City and Blackburn.

"So I was thinking this is a good opportunity. I was on the same money.

"We were doing well, we had Eoin Doyle coming back. I shouldn't have went back.

"This fella taking over at the time. He was a bit of a character. But lads weren't getting paid. I wasn't getting the full end of it because I was still on loan from Wigan."

The owner in question is former football agent Abdallah Lemsagam, who has presided over relegation from League One and the threat of strike action from players due to unpaid wages.

"It didn't affect me because Wigan were still paying my wages," said Byrne.

"You don't get paid for two or three weeks and you're in a relegation battle. Managers are looking for subs to come on, the subs are saying 'hang on, he's only paid the starting eleven this week'.

"There was some mad stuff going on. In the first six months when I went there, the grass at the training ground wasn't cut. We couldn't train there. People don't see that stuff.

"Things were happening at half-time in games where the owner was coming down."

Jack Byrne's stock rose last year when he shone in Holland on a loan spell with Cambuur

Reflecting on his time on loan to Cambuur, Byrne said: "I probably should have stayed out there for another year, looking back. It was a good experience and one I never thought would have come around.

"When the opportunity came I jumped at it. Playing against top players. Playing against Ajax in that stadium (Amsterdam Arena)."

Following his move from Oldham to Kilmarnock last summer, he describes a lack of fitness and living in a hotel as the reason for his ultimate decision to return home and sign for Rovers.

"I didn't play well in pre-season. I wasn't fit. At Oldham I didn't train. I went up to Kilmarnock and after 10 minutes in a game I was shot," he said.

"I needed to make a decision on getting back and fit. I spoke to my family and at least I'd be happy and enjoying myself not stuck in a hotel in Kilmarnock.

"It wasn't ideal living in a hotel. I only signed for a year at Kilmarnock."

Byrne's return home to play under Stephen Bradley with the Hoops paid off almost immediately with an Irish senior call-up from Mick McCarthy last March.

"I didn't expect to get an Ireland call-up. I just wanted to get back to showing myself and showing people that I could play and what I was good at," said Byrne.

"I'm never going to be six foot four, and getting people's faces. The more I can show people what I'm good at, the better for me.

"I've played 15 games with Rovers now."

Byrne was a little more coy on Rovers' chances of overhauling Dundalk and claiming a first League title in eight years.

"I'd love to win the league. I don't know. Football's unpredictable," he said.

"If we aim for the same amount of points in the second half of the season that we've got in the first, I think we'll be up there."

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