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Rovers bid farewell to 'unique' Joey O'Brien as Jack Byrne returns

‘I think one day Joey will be standing in my position at this club, he has a real coaching brain, he’s going away to do his work but I can see him back.’

Joey O'Brien lifting the Premier Division trophy.
Joey O'Brien lifting the Premier Division trophy.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Updated Nov 19th 2021, 10:03 AM

IT’S ONE IN and one out at Shamrock Rovers.

Jack Byrne’s return has been unveiled this morning, as teased by the club following his signing yesterday.

Then, once the Premier Division trophy is lifted after their final game of the season against Drogheda United, Joey O’Brien will say his farewells for what is close to being a sold-out Tallaght Stadium.

It brings the curtain down on close to 20 years as a professional, the last three of which were trophy-laden campaigns at his boyhood club.

The former Republic of Ireland international won two league titles and helped the Hoops end a 32-year wait for the FAI Cup in 2019.

But the 35-year-old’s departure for an assistant’s role under Damien Duff at Shelbourne next season still caught Rovers head coach Stephen Bradley off guard.

“It’s a really strange one, I fully expected Joey to stay for next year, we wanted him to stay, but he’s obviously feels now is the right time to take that next step,” he said.

It’s going to be strange not having him around, he’s been immense for us, on the pitch but more importantly off the pitch, things that people don’t see that a really important for this group and this club.

“He has helped us create a culture that’s been really, really important. And outside of that he is a really, really good man, he does things right, he has really high standards and it’s strange that this is his last training session.

“I am sure he will still join in at times next season with Damien and Shels, he will still have that itch. It will be strange emotions for Joey and everyone.

“We had long conversations over the last three weeks, really open and honest, Joey knows how much we wanted him here at the club, we knew his role was going to evolve over the next 12 months, in terms of playing less.

“It’s been like that for a long time and this came up with Shels, we had conversations, Joey felt it was an opportunity he couldn’t turn down at this stage of his life and I totally understand that, I respect it and he should be successful.

damien-duff-with-stephen-bradley Damien Duff (left) with Bradley while both at Shamrock Rovers. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“I think one day Joey will be standing in my position at this club, he has a real coaching brain, he’s going away to do his work but I can see him back at this club.”

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Bradley confirmed that O’Brien, who broke into the Premier League under Sam Allardyce at Bolton Wanderers and then played under him again in the English top flight at West Ham, will lead the Rovers players out at Tallaght later as club captain Ronan Finn is unavailable through injury.

And the Rovers boss also admitted his surprise for Tolka Park has forced him into changing his winter transfer plans.

“Yeah, it does. I wasn’t expecting to lose anyone and that remained the case until Joey had those conversations.

“So, we will try and replace or bring someone in to help because obviously Pico (Roberto Lopes) will be away on internationals, the African Cup of Nations next year, and injuries, Europe, the Cup. 

“Joey is unique and that’s what makes him brilliant. There are other players who are ready to step up. We’ve seen that. But again, Joey has helped create that, he’s helped bring them leaders to the fore over the last few years.”

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