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Dublin: 7°C Sunday 18 April 2021

Jack Byrne fears ‘top, top’ Irish youngsters will be hindered by Brexit ruling

The Shamock Rovers star also gave his reaction to Ireland’s World Cup draw.

Jack Byrne (file pic).
Jack Byrne (file pic).
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

SHAMROCK ROVERS STAR Jack Byrne has mixed feelings in relation to a ruling that looks set to prevent Irish youngsters moving to British clubs until the age of 18 or later.

This change is one of the significant footballing ramifications expected to be brought about by Brexit, with previous rules permitting Irish players to sign professional contracts with English clubs as minors.

Byrne himself left Ireland to join Manchester City at the age of 15, and although the St Kevin’s Boys graduate has since moved back to play in the League of Ireland, the midfielder believes the move was beneficial to him personally, while emphasising that it could be different for others.

“I think it’s a bit of a mix,” Byrne says. “For some lads, it’s really going to hamper them. I think the top, top players, lads like Troy Parrott and Jason Knight, these lads, at 18, 19 years of age, one of them has a fair few [games] in the Championship and the other one has made his Ireland debut and his Premier league debut while he is 18. So if he had just moved across then and didn’t have all the stats, the goals in the Youth Champions League and all of that backing him up [it would be a different scenario].

“For me, growing up, playing in the Youth Champions League and all of the cups, all of these things, getting into full-time training at 14, playing with the best players from around the world my age and then by the time I was 18, 19, I was ready to play first-team football then. If I wasn’t in that environment, if I wasn’t playing there, it certainly wouldn’t have opened the door for me to go to Holland.

“For other players who are going away on two-year contracts and they are back home with no education, they are doing scholarships or YTSs as they call them in England… Obviously you stay at home, it’s better for you. You go to a Shamrock Rovers, a Bohemians, a Dundalk.

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“At Shamrock Rovers, I’ve seen it myself, the club has an unbelievable academy with good people who can help players, get them ready to play first-team football here a little bit earlier, so that they are ready to go away and play when they are 18, 19, 20. But it will help, maybe, League of Ireland clubs in terms of selling players.

“I just don’t see how it’s going to benefit the top-tier player from Ireland, the likes of a Caoimhín Kelleher who has been at Liverpool a fair few years and where the manager came out and said: ‘I know Caoimhín five years, he’s been training with the club, the first team, with me for the past four or five years.’ So if he had to go over 2-3 years later, he might only know him a year and he might not have thrown him in.

“So these things, I think, will hinder the top, top players going away to the top clubs, because it’s going to be very hard for a young Irish fella to sign for a top club in England at 18. You need to be able to step into a Man City first team or a Liverpool first team and that’s a very difficult thing to do. They’d have to be signing you from a Shamrock Rovers for probably 20 million quid, which is unheard of, but it might happen. Who knows?”

Meanwhile, Byrne also gave his reaction to Ireland’s World Cup qualifying draw, following news earlier this week that the Boys in Green had been paired with Qatar (who won’t be competing for points), Portugal, Serbia, Luxembourg, and Azerbaijan.

I think it’s a good draw. You’re getting one of the best players in the world [Cristiano Ronaldo] coming to the Aviva, so that’s brilliant. It will probably be a sold-out crowd and will definitely give us a boost. They are obviously the top seeds, then Serbia, and two others who we can have a right pop off. So I think it’s really exciting and obviously something that I’d love to be involved with.

“My aim over the next couple of months is to hopefully get in good shape and start playing well, so I can kick on and be in the manager’s mind when he is making his decisions about the squad. It would obviously be a dream to get the country to a World Cup, every kid’s dream from the time they first pick up a football is obviously to play for their country in a World Cup. So if I can play a tiny part in helping the country to achieve that, I would be unbelievably proud.”

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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