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'I was getting a bit of stick from Dundalk fans before that, and I don’t really know why'

Jack Byrne is hoping for another Irish call-up in a couple of weeks having scored the winner in Friday’s clash with Dundalk.

Byrne celebrates after victory against Dundalk.
Byrne celebrates after victory against Dundalk.
Image: Ciaran Culligan/INPHO

JORDAN FLORES’ GOAL has gone around the world a couple of times at this stage, but Jack Byrne is hoping that Mick McCarthy sees a different clip. 

The Irish manager left Tallaght Stadium shortly before Byrne curled home the winner in Shamrock Rovers’ rollicking 3-2 win over Dundalk. “Has he got an iPhone!?”, laughed Byrne after the game. 

McCarthy was at the game along with his assistant Terry Connor, part of an FAI delegation including Stephen Kenny, interim CEO Gary Owens and president Gerry McAnaney. Galway United fan Michael D. Higgins was there too. 

The Irish boss names a provisional squad for the Euro 2020 play-offs on Friday week, with Byrne hoping to become the first League of Ireland player to play a competitive international for Ireland since Rovers’ Pat Byrne did so in 1985. 

“Yeah but I’d say everyone is”, said Byrne when asked if he felt in good shape ahead of the squad announcement. “People will be fit and ready and are looking to be in his thoughts. I feel fresh after the winter break but 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.” 

McCarthy will have seen the winning goal by now, of course, and Byrne is happy in the knowledge that a couple of his critics haven’t been able to escape it, either. 

“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. 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 and I’m just happy I was able to spin him for that goal, because I was getting a bit of stick from Dundalk fans before that and I don’t really know why.

“When Lee [Grace] got the ball I saw he was off me. Maybe he was getting a little bit tired as we had the momentum for so long, we scored not long before that. Maybe he switched off for a split-second, obviously I’m delighted that he did as it’s not often he does, he’s a top player.

“I knew it was going in, yeah. I knew he was struggling to save it, anyway.”

The result sends Rovers three points clear of the champions at the top of the league, maintaining their perfect record with four wins from four. That two of those have come against Dundalk and Bohemians is significant, as they took just four points from a possible 24 across eight games with their closest rivals last year. 

“It’s not”, replied Byrne bluntly when asked about that record. “It’s the same with the Bohs games, and we knew that in our own heads. We obviously couldn’t come out and say that because you don’t say these things, but we knew it was a big night. We play them at home twice and we need to be picking up points against then, we certainly can’t be losing points against them.

“It was a big night for the club. It’s just another three points, though. We need to back it up again this week against Sligo, otherwise it’s pointless.” 

As for the goal of the night? Byrne is close with Flores having spent time together at Wigan, so he has no problem saying it. 

“No, his goal was the best, being honest. Some goal.” 

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Gavin Cooney

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