Jack Byrne relished brief senior squad stint

Following his fleeting introduction to the senior Ireland fold this week, Jack Byrne insists he will give Martin O’Neill plenty to ponder in the run-up to the European Championships.
Jack Byrne relished brief senior squad stint

His confidence levels are such that the Manchester City midfielder won’t discount snaffling a place on the plane to France but the main benefit to accrue from his three days amongst the top class is the marker he’s laid for inclusion during the World Cup qualification campaign kicking off in September against Serbia.

By then, he’ll have had a full season in the Dutch top-flight with SC Cambuur. Byrne may be anchoring a team struggling in the Eredivisie but, as he points out, John O’Shea underwent a similar continental schooling before making it big in Manchester.

Ireland’s vice-captain was a helpful sounding board for Byrne before he left the Castleknock Hotel to join the Ireland U21 squad for Thursday’s Uefa qualifier against Italy.

For all the cockiness he emits, the 19-year-old insists he was soaking up the knowledge of Ireland’s stalwarts.

“John spoke to me about my loan in Holland, saying he did the same early in his career,” explained Byrne.

“He went to Royal Antwerp in Belgium and look how his career blossomed from there. John was a gentleman and really helpful.

“It was brilliant to have such top-class players taking some interest in chatting to me.

“Wes Hoolahan was another. We grew up near each other in Dublin and he was a hero of mine. I am so grateful for all their advice.”

Byrne also absorbed the briefing he received from the Ireland manager before they parted on Wednesday.

As O’Neill revealed that day, he cautioned the youngster about getting over-confident, though he was swift to emphasise there’s a grounding to his personality which may be misunderstood.

“I’m not some big-time Charlie,” he asserted. “That’s just not the way I am.

“Despite being with the seniors, I had no problem coming back down to the U21s.

“I’m a footballer — that’s my life and what I get paid to do. Playing for Ireland at any level is an honour and I don’t forget that Noel King gave me my break at 17 at a time I wasn’t getting any games for Ireland.

“This week was a brilliant experience. Although the standard of training was very high, I managed fine. Of course, it was the first time I’d trained with a senior international team but I now know what the level is and want to be back there.

“I’m still only 19 but why not try push on? If I don’t make it for the Euros, I’ll look towards the World Cup qualifiers.”

Whenever he does return, in keeping with his persona, mustering an initiation song won’t be an issue.

Captain Robbie Keane arranges the ritual for newcomers to the squad in the team hotel but Byrne escaped the after-dinner chore this week by nipping down to Waterford.

“Thank God, I was lucky to get away with singing this week,” he admitted.

“I think it was to happen on Thursday but I left the squad on Wednesday.

“If I get back in there, I won’t mind doing it and I’ll be ready. As an Irishman, I’ve picked an Irish song but I’m not saying which one yet.”

He may be the Irish rover in Holland right now but, on the basis of this week’s impact, Byrne will become a more familiar sight closer to home in the coming years.

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