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'He likes the badge and I've no doubt the fans will love him - he plays right from the heart'

Ireland U19 internatonal Thomas Byrne scored his first goal for St Pat’s against Sligo yesterday.

THE MUTUAL AFFECTION between the St Pat’s supporters gathered in the main stand at Richmond Park and goalscorer Thomas Byrne was clear for all to see late on Tuesday night, as the teenager reeled away in celebration having bagged his first goal for the club.

The Ireland underage international has become a fan favourite in lightening quick fashion, having played less than five games since signing from Drogheda, with recent appearances giving an insight of a greater prospect to come in the near future.

Thomas Byrne celebrates scoring a late penalty Byrne celebrates scoring a late penalty on Tuesday night. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

A broken metatarsal delayed the 19-year-old’s debut considerably. But even coming on for his bow as a substitute against Bohemians almost four months after signing, it was clear to see the delight he was held in, immediately launching into tackles in the heat of a tense derby.

The Ireland U19 international made sure of yesterday’s victory against Sligo with a stoppage time penalty, making it 2-0, ensuring the Saints’ third win on the bounce keeps their hopes of a European finish firmly in focus.

I’m delighted for him today, I thought he did really well,” said Saints boss Liam Buckley afterwards. “We’re just trying to calm him down and make sure he concentrates on football. He’s a lovely lad, a quiet enough lad in the dressing room.”

In fact it was a peculiar moment in the build-up to the late penalty, one which highlighted the player’s desire to break his duck and nick his first goal for St Pat’s.

Striker Jake Keegan was clumsily brought down inside the area on 89 minutes, referee Rob Hennessy pointed to the spot and regular penalty taker Killian Brennan placed the ball on the white mark, before turning his back and walking away.

Ian Bermingham and Thomas Byrne celebrate Dean Clarke's goal Byrne (right) celebrates with captain Ian Bermingham. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The midfielder didn’t return, and in his place jogged Byrne, who duly dispatched the effort beyond the reach of on-loan Chelsea goalkeeper Mitchell Beeney.

Byrne and Brennan had remonstrated previously about who would take penalties for the club. Byrne was fouled against Shamrock Rovers a fortnight ago, only to see his team-mate take ownership of the spot-kick to some visual disagreement.

He tried to say it was maker’s taker’s,” Brennan laughed afterwards. “But there was no way he was taking it off me.”

It was all in good nature and boss Buckley was quick to praise the efforts of Byrne during the 2-0 win on Tuesday, highlighting the pace and strength which have made him an immediately popular figure with supporters.

“Look, he’s a talented footballer there’s no two ways about it,” the manager said. “He can play in a few different positions as well.

Liam Buckley Liam Buckley's side have three wins in a row in the Premier Division. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“He likes the badge and I’ve no doubt the fans will love him. He’s a trier, he plays right from the heart. He’s a top fella and I’m delighted he’s played well.”

The player enjoyed a year and a half at Brighton and is beginning to find his groove in League of Ireland football, playing under Pete Mahon at Drogheda before being snapped up by St Pat’s.

He can play across the front line, Buckley added, with yesterday’s performance lining out as the main striker showing his flexibility to adapt.

I’ve no doubt with a bit of coaching he could play up front. He obviously can play wide left — that’s where he was playing for Drogheda and over at Brighton as well.

“But now that I’ve seen him in a match tonight it gives me a better perspective of where he’s at.

St. Patricks Athletic players congratulate goal scorer Thomas Byrne The Saints are seeking to bring European football back to Inchicore after a two year absence. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“He’s lighting quick, deceptively quick. He’s got really talented feet and scores some wonder-goals in training.

“If he can do that sort of stuff in training, he only needs the right sort of environment before he’s doing it in matches.”

His side now face into two important games in the hunt for a European position, taking on Derry City on Friday before another Dublin derby against Shamrock Rovers on Tuesday.

“As a group we need to do better, and if we do we’ll give ourselves some chance of competing at the top end of the table,” the manager added.

“Derry are fourth, they’ve a game in hand and we play them on Friday. If we beat them we’re firmly in the hunt for the top four.”

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Aaron Gallagher

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