Byrne make Cyprus-switch after glorious spell in Tallaght

by Stephen Findlater
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Republic of Ireland international Jack Byrne has joined Cypriot Premier League side APOEL on a two-and-a-half-year deal.

The Ballybough man will link up with his former international manager Mick McCarthy at Cyprus’ most successful club.

24-year-old Byrne joins following a two-year stint with Shamrock Rovers, in which time he was twice voted players’ player of the year and established himself as a regular international.

Byrne was the standout player in the shortened 2020 season as Rovers were crowned champions without losing a game and reached the final of the FAI Cup, which they lost to Dundalk.

He also starred as the Hoops reached the second qualifying round of the Europa League, impressing in a 2-0 defeat to the Zlatan Ibrahimovic-inspired Italian giants AC Milan.

Byrne, who has opted to keep the 29 shirt he wore throughout his Tallaght spell, paid tribute to his former coaches Stephan Bradley and Glenn Cronin on social media.

“Today, with the heaviest of hearts, I would like to announce that I’ve decided to leave Shamrock Rovers, and the people I’ve come to love, and I do so with a huge lump in my throat,” he said.

“Last year, I played in a team that became invincible in the Airtricity League, not just because of the quality of football we played but because of the quality of characters and people within the dressing room, people who I will always regard as an extension of my family. They’ve made me a better teammate, player and person.”

The former Manchester City trainee returned to Dublin in late 2018, disillusioned with football after disappointing spells with Blackburn Rovers, Wigan Athletic, Oldham Athletic and Kilmarnock.

He scored 17 goals in 68 games with the Hoops over two seasons, including a key goal in the 2019 Europa League qualifying win over Brann of Norway.

Byrne credited the Rovers management with reigniting his love for the game and with propelling him back to the elite level following a difficult period in his nascent career.

“After a few days home in Dublin, Stephen Bradley, Stephen McPhail and Glenn Cronin asked myself, my mother and brother to meet them at the SRFC training ground in Roadstone.

“They told me if I got my head down, they’d do everything they could to help me get back to myself and most importantly love the game again.

“They told my mother they’d take care of me and help me grow up on and off the pitch. The reality is over the past two years Stephen Bradley and his staff done far, far more than what they promised.

“In truth they’ve changed my life. They made me fitter, stronger and a much better footballer. They believed in me and helped me feel that I could not just be good but that I could compete with any player at any level.

“They made me relevant to the Irish international squad and helped me fulfil my dream of pulling on the green jersey, a dream that was dead before I met them.

“They are without doubt incredible people, incredible developers of players and I would urge any young player to listen to everything they have to say.

“I spent many years at one of the biggest clubs in the world and Shamrock Rovers have a management team that are as good as all the great people I worked under at Man City.”

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