It could well be the last such award for some time but the first SSE Airtricity League/Soccer Writers of Ireland Player of the Month this season has gone to Shamrock Rovers’ Jack Byrne.
The scorer of a superb winner as the Hoops beat champions Dundalk 3-2 in Tallaght, the Irish international also scored in a 6-0 demolition of Cork City as Rovers won four out of four games in February.
But while delighted to receive the award and stressing that “it’s a reflection of how the whole team is doing”, Byrne, like everyone else in Irish football, is now facing into a period of huge uncertainty as the spread of the coronavirus impacts sport in this country.
“It’s safety first,” said Byrne. “People’s lives are the most important thing.”
But he acknowledged that, depending on its extent and duration, a sporting shutdown would have significant implications for League of Ireland clubs and players.
“I’ve never been involved in anything like it,” he said. “It will obviously impact a lot of clubs here because a lot of clubs need the gates.
“If they were going to have play games behind closed doors, I think they’d have to suspend the season. A lot of the smaller clubs, they might not have the money to function without the crowds. We need to do our best.”
And, speaking before Slovakia had officially requested a postponement of the Euro 2020 play-off game against Ireland in Bratislava, the midfielder said he already doubted that the match could take place as scheduled on March 26 given that a number of the home side's players are based in Italy, the European country hardest hit by Covid-19.
“I can’t see the game going ahead if you can’t bring your best players to the game because of travel restrictions,” he said.
“But I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ve family that have booked fights to go over and watch the game. You want people there, you want the fans there but it’s just one of those things that you can’t affect. It’s safety first. If the game is called off or played behind closed doors, that’s the way it is.”