‘I'm not just looking towards England or Shamrock Rovers. There are a lot of things that I have to consider'

Jack Byrne says he would be open to moving beyond Britain and Ireland if the right opportunity arises.

Jack Byrne (file pic).
Jack Byrne (file pic).
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

JACK BYRNE SAYS he has yet to decide where his future lies, as he considers his next move in football.

It was today confirmed that the Dubliner won the PFAI Player of the Year award for the second season in succession, after helping Shamrock Rovers win the Premier Division title for the first time since 2011.

The 24-year-old’s influential performances have attracted interest from elsewhere. According to various media reports, Mick McCarthy’s APOEL and at least one MLS team are among those believed to be interested in signing the midfielder.

“I’d be hoping that people will respect that it’s still early in England or in Europe, America, in all their transfer windows,” he told reporters, when asked about his future during a Zoom conference today.

“I have signed the last day of the summer window for Kilmarnock, I signed the last day of the January window for Wigan. I understand these things don’t just happen even though you are a free agent.”

Byrne had a successful loan spell at Cambuur in the 2015-16 season, but prior to signing with Shamrock Rovers, none of his other transfers really worked out. Blackburn (on loan), Wigan, Oldham and Kilmarnock all lasted a year or less. Consequently, the Irish international is well aware how careful he needs to be in choosing his next move, with staying put in the League of Ireland one of the options he says he is contemplating.

“Could I turn around tomorrow and get something? Yeah. Would it be the right thing to do? You don’t know all the options on the table, so it wouldn’t be the right thing to do. I am still not ruling out Shamrock Rovers. I have spoken to the club and the manager. I have told him that they will be in my mind when I am making the decision and they are okay waiting a little bit as well. It’s okay from everyone at the moment to relax and see what comes. 

“It just has to be the right club and the right challenge. One of the best years of my career was playing in Holland. I wouldn’t rule out going back there if something good became available. You can’t rule out anything, as you never know when the phone is going to ring. I’m not just looking towards England or Shamrock Rovers. There are a lot of things that I have to take into consideration and I will be over the next couple of weeks.”

Byrne acknowledges that having easy access to family and friends has been a big part of the attraction of playing with the Tallaght outfit.

I love being home and playing in front of my friends and family week in, week out. Not this season obviously, but I know they are watching. It was a big part of the reason I wanted to come back here and play for the club. It does come into the decision, of course, but at the same time, there sometimes comes a point where you might just need to take a step for yourself.”

The former Man City youth footballer also played down suggestions that choosing to stay in Ireland could have a detrimental effect on his international career.

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“I’d love to have an international career wherever I’m going. But I think I proved here, I’ve played four times in two years and been in nearly every squad. I think it would be disrespectful to say to the club that I need to move to play for Ireland. When I was in Holland, I wasn’t in the Ireland squads. I made my competitive debut playing for Shamrock Rovers, so I don’t think that would really make my decision easier.”

Byrne is invariably at his best when playing in an attacking midfield or number 10 role. Should the move transpire, he agrees that it’s important to choose a club where he is playing regularly. That would also mean picking a team ideally with an attractive style who are willing to play to his strengths as a footballer.

“That’s big obviously, I’m not going to go somewhere where it’s not the right move for me, I’m going to go somewhere where if I am leaving the club where I’m playing, week in, week out, I’d have to be somewhere where at least I’d get a shot.

It’s up to you to keep the jersey, so that’s up to me to work hard if I do leave. If I stay, there is no guarantee that I play every week at Shamrock Rovers. It’s really down to me to get in anywhere I go, I’ve no right to be starting every week. If you do leave, you’d be hoping that you do have the shirt anyways for a short period of time to prove that you could keep the shirt.”

And what are the pitfalls he is hoping to avoid this time out, which halted his progress at Wigan and Kilmarnock among others?

“There were different circumstances that weren’t right at whatever moment, but you know if I stay with Shamrock Rovers or I leave, I just need to bring what I brought the last two years to the club. I wouldn’t stay here and bring any less, and I wouldn’t go anywhere and give any less. That’s the standards I’ve to set going forward. And I will, because I’ve seen the rewards you can get and know how happy you can make people and definitely look myself in the mirror and say I’m giving it my best go, even if I’m not playing well, or didn’t have the best game. I’m giving it my best.” 

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Paul Fennessy

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