Jack Byrne may have scored the winner with a superb strike of his own in Shamrock Rovers’ 3-2 victory over Dundak on Friday but the Ireland midfielder had no qualms about doffing the cap for goal of the night in Tallaght to his former Wigan team mate Jordan Flores whose thunderbolt volley for the Lilywhites has generated coverage all over the world.
“His goal was the best, being honest,” said the Hoops playmaker. “Some goal. A cracker. I played with Jordan at Wigan and I knew he had that in his locker. I just didn’t think he’d take it out on Friday night. I’m delighted for him that he scored, as he had a tough time last year with injuries.
“He looks a lot fitter this year and hopefully he can go on and have a good season as he’s a good mate of mine. I spent a lot of time with him at Wigan, we’d hang around together, so I’m happy for him.”
But, naturally, Byrne was happier still that his own goal sealed a thrilling win for Rovers against the reigning champions.
”I always get a bit of stick off the Dundalk fans leading up to this game telling me that Chris Shields has me in his back pocket, all this stuff,” he said.
“It’s probably the first time in about six games that he’s actually left me and I’ve had a chance to spin him.
“He’s a top player, with countless medals in this league. It’s never an easy night against him. When Lee (Grace) got the ball I saw he (Shields) was off me. Maybe he was getting a little bit tired as we had the momentum for so long and we had scored not long before that. Maybe he switched off for a split-second but I’m delighted that he did as it’s not often he does, he’s a top player. The shot? I knew it was going in, yeah. I knew he was struggling to save it, anyway.”
Byrne said he wasn’t put out by reports that Ireland manager Mick McCarthy had left the ground shortly before the winning goal.
”Does he have an iPhone!” the Dubliner chuckled. “Listen, I’m not bothered about who’s there watching it and who’s going to see it and who’s not going to see it. It was a goal in front of an unbelievable crowd and if someone had shouted on to me that someone who could have seen the goal had just left, I don’t think I would have cared. I would have just celebrated with my team-mates and enjoyed the moment.
“Individually, it was nice to get the goal but it could have been anyone to score and I wouldn’t have cared. I would still have celebrated the same as it’s such a big win for the club. It’s just another three points, though. We need to back it up again against Sligo, otherwise it’s pointless. But it was a great night for the League, a great night for the club and it shows the potential going forward.”
With the Euro 2020 play-off against Slovakia looming, Byrne said he feels in good shape to answer his country’s call but adds that he doesn’t underestimate the stiffness of the competition for a place in McCarthy’s squad and team.
”People will be flying at the back end of the season,” he said. “They might be going for promotion or looking to stay in the Premier League. People will be fit and ready and looking to be in his thoughts. I feel fresh after the winter break although I came back two weeks early and I didn’t take that long off, I only took two weeks off.
“I have goals in my own head that I want to try and achieve this year. And if I don’t achieve them it won’t be because I’m not working hard.”