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'I speak to Troy all the time. He’s happy at Spurs. He loves it there’

Jack Byrne opens up on his friend’s future, what’s next for him with Shamrock Rovers and Ireland’s Euro 2020 hopes.

Ireland internationals Troy Parrott (left) and Jack Byrne (centre).
Ireland internationals Troy Parrott (left) and Jack Byrne (centre).
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

ALL MANNER OF subjects were thrown at Jack Byrne earlier today as he faced the media for the first time this year.

His future with Shamrock Rovers was naturally the opening topic for discussion, with the Hoops midfielder playing a straight bat and insisting his primary focus is on the start of the League of Ireland season next month.

Now a Republic of Ireland international, of course, there were some tentative glances towards the Euro 2020 play-off tie away to Slovakia.

His own club situation was again tied in for good measure, the debate remaining whether staying in the League of Ireland would be detrimental to his hopes of being part of Mick McCarthy’s plans.

Byrne’s role in the recent meeting between the Professional Footballers’ Association of Ireland [PFA Ireland] and the Minster for Sport Shane Ross about the future of the league in this country was also discussed in more detail, but it was the current furore surrounding Troy Parrott’s situation with Tottenham Hotspur that led to the most revealing insight.

“Yeah, I’ve talked to him about the situation. He’s really happy at Tottenham. He loves it. He’s training with the best players, training with one of the best coaches in the world. I probably speak to him every few days, to be honest, not necessarily about football but about whatever.

“I know he is happy and enjoying himself and so with time he will grow into the player that he’s meant to be; everybody finds that level eventually.”

Spurs manager Jose Mourinho said yesterday that the 17-year-old was still some way off being regular in the Premier League side’s starting XI, and Byrne, who progressed through the Manchester City academy before seeking first-team opportunities elsewhere, feels he will be ready for whatever is thrown at him.

“Yeah, but then he has the ability too that if he was given the opportunity he would do well. He is not, he doesn’t not want to play. If the opportunity came up, he wouldn’t not want to do it. He is very confident that if he was given the opportunity at Spurs….I’d be very confident myself that he would do it so it’s about him getting that chance.

“He is very young,” Byrne added. “I’ve been friends with Troy since he was about 14. I’ve grown up with him around the same area.

“It’s a difficult situation for him at the moment. Does he go on loan? Do the club want to send him out on loan? I don’t know. I’m not Jose Mourinho, I don’t know how he’s working it. For his own development, he’s only a kid and he’s training with some of the best players in the world at Tottenham, it can’t be bad for him to stay there.

“I just think he needs to take his time and listen to good people around him. He needs to go with the flow he’s still only 17.

“I think some people do forget he’s still only 17 but maybe because of how good he is and how good he can be. There’s obviously the added pressure when you make your Tottenham debut and then you go on and make your Ireland first team debut and you’re not coming on for five minutes in these games at the end of the game and being thrown on as a carrot.

2020-spar-fai-primary-school-5s-programme-launch Byrne at today's 2020 SPAR FAI Primary School 5s programme launch. Source: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE

“He started against Colchester and he started against New Zealand. He’s shown that he can be a real top player. Look, I think you just need to see how it pans out and let it flow naturally.”

Byrne is taking the same approach to his own future at Rovers, with the Ireland international insisting he is paying no attention to any talk of a move back to England on the back of his exploits in 2019.

“I don’t know. I don’t get involved with that. I leave that to the club and my agent. I just concentrate on the football because if I’m not playing well or if I’m not fit enough, even if an offer did come up I wouldn’t be fit enough to go anyways.

“It’s nice to go into a pre-season with a clear head and a fresh start where you can set goals and targets. Before, I might have been thinking I might not be here by the end of the window so that’s been good,” the 23-year-old said.

“You don’t know in football what’s going to happen. I just set a target to get as fit as I possibly could to set my mind on the season starting. The President’s Cup against Dundalk and Bohs in the league the week after, my target is being as fit as possible for those games. Anything could come up in between but that’s my focus, to get as fit as possible for those games.

“I’m not even thinking about that [a transfer], I’m honestly just thinking about getting as fit as I can. The fixtures came out and the first game of the season is against Bohs, it excites you, it excites everybody. When that fixture came out, I got a good feeling, I want to try and win that game.”

Byrne also has Ireland duty to consider and his hopes of keeping his place in McCarthy’s squad for the trip to Bratislava will only be strengthened if he is playing regular football. And the Dubliner is adamant that he won’t feel the need to jump across the water with a solid base at Rovers behind him.

“Last year kind of proves that, if I’m at my best, and I have to be at my best because there are some unbelievable players in the Ireland squad, I think I’d give myself a chance. I can just concentrate on doing as well as I can and, obviously, there are some unbelievable players in the squad so he [McCarthy] will have his pick. Hopefully I can put myself in his mind.

“It’s out my control. The only thing that’s in my control is doing as well as I can when I’m on the pitch. I believe in myself and I back myself and I feel like I’m in a better place than when I was last year when I got called up.

“I’m fitter. I am mentally a lot stronger so if he is picking the squad in March, obviously when I was first called up it was in March, so I think I back myself to give myself a chance in March, if I am at it. If I’m obviously not at it, I won’t be in the squad no matter when the games are.”

aaron-greene-and-jack-byrne-celebrate-with-the-trophy Byrne with Aaron Greene celebrating Rovers' FAI Cup win. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Byrne became a poster boy for redemption in the League of Ireland last year and his prominence, as well as that profile as a newly-capped Ireland international, meant he was one of the advocates who stood up and spoke to Shane Ross on behalf of PFA Ireland in a meeting earlier this month.

“Just because of what the league had done for me. Not only me but other players too. The league needs to be strong here and it needs backing because, for the likes of players like me coming back home, it gave me a platform for to go and play football in this country and show everyone what I can do.

“I came back from England last season, won the PFAI player of the year, Dan Mandroiu did the same thing he came back from Brighton and won the young player equivalent.

“A lot of the Irish first team has been up of League of Ireland players so the league needs to be strong and it needs to be strong for players when they do come back that they can bounce back. I just felt as though that point needed to be said.”

Byrne got a bit more off his chest today.

The SPAR FAI Primary School 5s Programme for 2020 was officially launched today by new programme ambassadors, Republic of Ireland International footballers Jack Byrne and Amber Barrett.

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