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Euro 2016 hopeful Jack Byrne: 'I feel like I can affect the game at every level'

The SC Cambuur midfielder will be invited to train with the Irish senior squad ahead of the friendlies with Switzerland and Slovakia.

Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“I DON’T THINK it’s come too early,” that’s the outlook one of Ireland’s most exciting talents, Jack Byrne has when asked if Ireland’s Euro 2016 campaign has arrived too soon in his development.

The Dubliner is on-loan to Eredivisie strugglers SC Cambuur in Holland from Manchester City.

Byrne missed the first five league matches for his new team after picking up an ankle injury in pre-season but returned to make his debut at home to FC Twente in the middle of September.

The 19-year-old came into the fixture well aware of the daunting prospect ahead after Cambuur conceded 16 goals in their previous three fixtures prior to his debut.

The St Kevin’s Boys graduate has gone on to play in all but one of his adopted team’s matches this season; starting 19 out of his 21 appearances.

Although the Eredivise is broadcast on Sky Sports many Irish fans may not know too much about the dynamic midfielder, who has gathered more media attention in recent weeks due to his late winner in the man-of-the-match performance against Zwolle which was quickly followed by another superb strike against Heracles last weekend. While his first goal for Cambuur in December made him the youngest scorer in the club’s history.

Source: Football24/YouTube

“I’m a technical player with a lot of passion,” Byrne tells The42.

“It’s [playing in Holland] brought my technical ability on to a whole other level and it’s probably brought my work rate on as well because if you don’t work hard then you don’t get the ball because the other teams are technically so good but I’m also developing other parts of my game as well.”

It has never been the norm for young Irish players to operate outside Britain which has perhaps hindered the ability of Irish players to harness their technical ability in recent years.

“I felt that this was the best place for me at this moment. I felt that to help my football development it was important to step outside my comfort zone. I never once thought: ‘Holland sounds a little bit scary’ or ‘I don’t want to try that’. I just thought that if this works out then it opens up so many windows and I haven’t regretted the decision to come abroad at all.”

The perception of Irish players in Holland is that they have a strong ethic have little skill to back it up and it is something Byrne is single-handedly slowly altering,

“They look at us and think they’re very passionate. They haven’t seen very many Irish footballers – I think the last one before me was 15 years ago [David Connolly with Feyenoord and Excelsior] and that’s the only one I can remember!

“What they’ve seen of me is maybe different to what other Irish footballers have to offer so maybe if they got another Irish footballer over they might see tackling, heart and spirit.

“I’m more of a technical footballer; I affect the game in different ways than a lot of Irish footballers. I think Holland would love to have some of the attitude and desire that Ireland has and Ireland would love to have a bit of the technical side Holland has. I’d definitely recommend taking that step to other people if they thought it was going to benefit them because once you get past the homesickness it’s good.”

It’s not just adapting to a new country the midfielder has had to adjust to but the step-up to senior football along with a relegation battle; Cambuur sit at the foot of the table with just three wins from 27 games, but it’s a challenge Byrne relishes.

“I’ve learned to deal with negativity a little bit better than I did before. The football is also different to what I was used to at Man City but I’m standing on my own two feet now. I think a lot of people have noticed that and it’s benefitting me in the end. I’m getting used to senior football and even things like asking the lads if they want to go and do something after training and half of them are going to collect their kids from school! It’s completely different, but you learn, you adapt and you just get used to it.”

Byrne’s manager while with Manchester City’s elite development squad was the now New York City manager, Patrick Vieira. The former Arsenal midfielder has been pivotal in Byrne’s development and is still in regular contact with the Irish U-21 international.

“Patrick was great with me and I drop texts every now and again to him and his staff and current Man City staff. They all text me when I scored my goal at the weekend and they all said well done. It’s nice that they’re still looking out for me and that they’re still giving me advice now. They didn’t just give me advice when I came over and then say ‘you’re on your own now’, they’re still there as support now even at this stage of the season.”

With just over 80 days until Ireland take on Sweden in the Stade de France for their opening game of Euro 2016, Byrne along with Preston’s Alan Browne has been invited to take part in some training sessions with the senior squad. Byrne has been included in the U-21 squad with crucial qualifiers against Italy and Slovenia but will be hoping to impress Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane should the opportunity arise.

“If I’ve impressed then hopefully I’ll have a chance like everybody else has a chance. I understand that there’s the players who got them there at the moment and have done an unbelievable job. But I feel like I can affect the game at every level and at the highest level. I believe in my ability and I’ll keep working hard to hopefully push my way into people’s thoughts. It’s nice that people are talking about me in that way.”

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Shane Costello

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