Luke Byrne spent the last two years at Shamrock Rovers coaching the Under-15s alongside Damien Duff – but he’s looking forward to getting back out on the playing field with Shelbourne.
The Howth native has seen the last three years of his career marred by a cruciate ligament injury and subsequent niggles that restricted him to just 38 games.
The 25-year-old Byrne parted company with the Hoops at the end of 2018, bringing to an end a five-year spell in Tallaght, to link up with new Reds boss Ian Morris.
Defender Byrne, who courted controversy when he swapped Bohemians for Rovers in 2013, will line out for a third of Dublin’s big four next year as they look to return to the Premier Division.
Shels have been in the First Division since 2013 but are newly debt-free and made some eye-catching signings in the off-season including Byrne, Ryan Brennan and Conan Byrne.
“It is a really good squad,” Byrne tells the Dublin Gazette.
“A lot of Premier Division experience. A lot of lads that have won games and scored a lot of goals. There’s experience all over the pitch.
“You’ve also got a number of younger lads that were there last year and have come in and have got a lot of ability. It’s a really good squad going into the season.”
While pre-season results haven’t gone to plan – they’ve won none and drawn just once, and lost to non-league Beggsboro – Byrne is happy to be deployed in his preferred centre-half position.
“That’s where I’m going to play this year. Obviously, if needs be, I can play full-back. I can play either side at full-back. Centre-half is somewhere I’ve wanted to play for a while.
“I’ve always felt I suited the position so I’m looking forward, not so much learning on the job, but getting more used to the position.”
There is experience down the spine of the team, from goalkeeper Dean Delany and Byrne himself to Conan Byrne and Ciaran Kilduff up front.
That experience will be key in helping Morris – another Bohemians old boy in his first job as manager – to translate his ideas to a team who not so much hope as expect to win promotion.
Byrne’s experience shadowing Duff – who recently made the move to Glasgow to become Celtic’s reserve coach – will be particularly useful in a side still reliant on young players.
“I’ve done two years with the 15s out there and I’ve just finished my B License, so please god I’ll get onto the A License.
“I’m still figuring out what team might need me in terms of Shels because I came in quite late. A lot of these things have been decided and confirmed.
“But I will be involved in some capacity during the season.
“We’ve a lot of lads there who haven’t played full-time football. They’re coming out of under-19s and into Shels or whoever.
“Even myself, if I can pass on anything I know from being in a full-time set that will help the lads, and in turn help the team, that’s one of the manager’s jobs and he’s been doing it so far.”