Jack Byrne is ready to play a part in the Republic of Ireland’s decisive Euro 2020 showdown with Denmark after turning his career around.
Snapped up by Manchester City as a 15-year-old, the midfielder returned to Ireland with Shamrock Rovers in December last year as he opted to reboot after spells at Cambuur in Holland, Wigan and Oldham in England and Scottish side Kilmarnock.
On Thursday night he made his first senior start for Ireland in a 3-1 friendly victory over New Zealand and provided the kind of invention which makes managers sit up and take notice, and his timing could hardly have been better ahead of the Group D shoot-out with the Danes.
Asked if he was ready to take on a role if called upon by manager Mick McCarthy, the 23-year-old replied: “I’d try to slot in to the best of my ability if I was called upon.
“I definitely wouldn’t say ‘no’. If I’m called upon, then yes, I feel as if I could help the team.
“I feel like I’m in a good place. I’m working hard and I’m getting a bit of luck at the moment, and long may it continue.
“It’s not my decision, it’s up to the manager. Look, he’s going to pick a team to go out there and do a job in one of the biggest games in recent Irish footballing history.
“Whatever team he picks, we’ll all be behind it.”
Byrne’s first senior start for his country came in just his second appearance – he was introduced as a substitute against Bulgaria in September – and while the game may not have represented the sternest of tests with the All Whites playing for the first time in 525 days, he looked far from out of place.
He said: “It was an unbelievable feeling to just be out on the pitch with the anthems going off and standing there.
“Starting a game for your country is an unbelievable feeling and one that I’ll remember for a long time.
“I was enjoying it, I was just trying to get on the ball and trying to make things happen and I’m happy with how it went.
“I only know one way to play, just trying to get on the ball and make things happen and I tried to do that. Sometimes it came off, sometimes it didn’t, but that’s what I tried to do. That’s what I’ll always do.”
If Byrne’s contribution was notable, much of the focus before, during and after the game centred on his room-mate Troy Parrott.
He has taken the 17-year-old Tottenham striker, who grew up in the same part of Dublin, under his wing and is confident he has a bright future ahead of him on the international stage.
Byrne said: “He’s obviously at Tottenham for a reason, he’s a top young talent. He’s 17 years of age and he’s just made his debut for Ireland – and I thought he was brilliant.
“He’s 17, it’s an unbelievable achievement. He’s a top striker for his age in the world, probably. He’s at Tottenham and he’s doing really well, and you can see why.”