'Tonight was the best we have seen Jack. He’s getting back to himself'

The Ireland international played a key role in Shamrock Rovers’ win against Dundalk on Monday.

Jack Byrne celebrates (file pic).
Jack Byrne celebrates (file pic).
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

SHAMROCK ROVERS boss Stephen Bradley hailed the performance of Jack Byrne, as the midfielder produced an influential display during his side’s 1-0 win over Dundalk on Monday night.

The 25-year-old Irish international played a perfectly weighted through pass to set up Danny Mandroiu’s winning goal and the manager was full of praise for the star’s all-around performance.

Asked about the 66th-minute goal that separated the sides, Bradley said: “Gary O’Neill did brilliantly to win the second ball for us and it was a brilliant ball from Jack. I think tonight was the best we have seen Jack. He’s getting back to himself. There were times in the second half when he was unplayable. It’s a great pass through and you’d fancy Danny one on one every day of the week.”

Byrne was the PFAI Players’ Player of the Year in both the 2019 and 2020 campaigns as he consistently starred for the Hoops. That form earned him a move to Cypriot side APOEL, but it did not work out as planned — he made just five appearances for the club amid an injury-plagued spell.

And while it has taken some time to fully recover from that setback amid his second spell at Tallaght, Bradley believes the former Man City youngster is right on track on the evidence of last night’s showing.

“A year is a long time in any walk of life but in football, to play at the level Jack does, it takes time to get back. I thought tonight, in the second half, we saw him playing at a really good tempo. He was twisting and turning, moving them around, he was dictating the game in the second half and looked like he was not far off [his best].”

Having registered 15 goals last season, Mandroiu also has had somewhat of a slow start, having scored just once in this campaign prior to the Dundalk encounter, but also was among the individuals to catch the eye against the Lilywhites.

“He looks back in the zone,” added Bradley. “He looks back to where he was last year. In the last three games, he looks back to his levels. He looked really dangerous tonight and in the first half, he could have had one or two as well. His movement all night caused them problems.”

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Last month, Byrne went so far as to suggest to reporters that Mandroiu has the potential to be a 30-goal-a-season man, and Bradley agrees with this assessment.

“I believe he can. He has it in him. You saw tonight, he’s so dangerous. When he comes off, he’s quick and bright. Then he came on in behind and he’s very quick in behind, and he can finish off both feet so of course, he can. He can definitely go and beat his tally from last year.”

On the match overall, Bradley acknowledged his side had their work cut out against a stubborn Dundalk outfit.

“The way they set up, we felt they would set up that way. Looking at the game in Dundalk, the set-up was fairly similar. They tried to frustrate us but we knew we had to be patient and keep moving them and eventually, the spaces would open up and thankfully they did in the second half and we punished them.”

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Paul Fennessy

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