Conan the warrior ends St Pat’s spell in fitting style

by Dave Donnelly

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Conan Byrne brought his St Patrick’s Athletic career to a spectacular conclusion as he created three of their goals in a 5-0 demolition of Derry City at Richmond Park.

That final-day win lifted the Saints above Bohemians and into fifth position in the league and return some optimism to the club as it faces into a period of change.

The winger delivered the news many fans had been dreading in the week leading up to the game as he revealed his six-year spell with the Inchicore club would come to an end.

The Swords man was the club’s second longest-serving player and was a leader on and off the pitch, notching 77 goals in 249 appearances for the Athletic.

“It was good to sign off with a win,” the 33-year-old told the Dublin Gazette.

“I think that was important. Ger [O’Brien, caretaker manager] was talking to us during the week about trying to get to the 50-point mark.

“We had two disappointing results against Dundalk and Shamrock Rovers, conceding two late goals, so it was important to get those two wins and convincing wins with clean sheets.

“I was brought to the club to create goals. I would have nearly preferred to get the assists rather than the goals while I was there.

“The goals were always a bonus. Creating goals was always my bread and butter, so I’m delighted to make that contribution.”

Director of football O’Brien was taking charge of his final game before handing the reins to Harry Kenny, who was assistant to Liam Buckley when the Saints last won the title in 2013.

Buckley, like Byrne, ended his long association with the club this year but the winger, who is a primary school teacher in Rush, says the change of manager has little to do with his decision.

Pats have been full-time over Byrne’s time at the club but training in the evenings, rather than the mornings as the likes of Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk do, suited his work schedule.

With the club now reverting to morning training, the former UCD, Sporting Fingal and Shelbourne man decided it was time to put his family and career first.

“I knew before Harry came in that whoever was going to be coming into the job would want to give the club the best opportunities to compete with the likes of Dundalk and Cork.

“I knew that was the way the club was going to go forward.

“Harry came in and, in fairrness, he did everything he could to try and keep me.

“He asked me to take a career break from my teaching to go forward, but ultimately I wasn’t able to do that. I’m focused on that career now, first and foremost, and football will take a backseat.”

Over six years in Inchicore, Byrne has played in Europe and won everything there is to win domestically, but there’s one moment that sticks out over all others.

“I remember scoring four goals in Tallaght which, from a personal point of view, was a great moment. I don’t think any player had done that previously.

“The league-winning team of 2013 was excellent. But, over the career, the FAI Cup has been the biggest achievement.

“The moment when Christy Fagan scored that second goal – I don’t think I’ve had a better moment in football.

“To bottle that feeling, and open it sometimes when you’re down, it would get you in the right mood.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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