Whenever a player gets compared to Paul Scholes it’s time to sit up and take notice. That such lofty admirations are being bestowed upon a young Irish lad named Jack Byrne should be something to give us renewed hope as long suffering Irish fans.
St. Kevin’s Boys
Byrne is still only 19 but is highly regarded in a Manchester City set-up that has the pick of the best talent from around the world. He is currently under the stewardship of Patrick Vieira who has admitted to being a great admirer of the dynamic midfielder with a keen eye for goal.
Jack Byrne grew up on the Northside of Dublin, off Clonliffe Road in Drumcondra, an area which has a rich football history. His love for the game was evident from an early age, learning the basics on the circle outside his home under the admiring glances of family and neighbours. His talent saw him end up at the famed St. Kevin’s Boys (which produced Damien Duff and Robbie Brady) at the age of 7. He spent 9 years at the club under the tutelage of Joe Quinn before being snapped up by Manchester City on his 16th birthday in 2011.
In May 2013 Byrne signed a three-year professional contract with City and trained with the first team later that summer. From there his progress through the youth ranks has been swift as he reached the Premier League final with City’s U-18’s in 2014. Unfortunately the club lost that game to Everton at Goodison Park, thanks to a goal from another Irish youth international Harry Charsley.
Jack stepped up to the City U-19’s soon afterwards and blossomed on the European stage, with his impressive goal tally from midfield pitching him amongst the highest goal scorers in the Uefa Youth Cup. City would go all the way to the quarter-finals with Byrne notching up a total of 6 goals, a couple of which came against European giants Bayern Munich in the group stage. The goals were impressive in their range with a free kick and some outstanding shooting from outside the box revealing the devastating potential of this young player. Byrne possesses a fine footballing acumen that ranges from tenacious tackling, a strong work ethic and a penchant for the killer pass. But it is his goal scoring feats that have clearly marked him out. That, and a fire in his belly that is tempered by a genuine appreciation of how lucky he has been to make it this far.
Such was Byrne’s impact in the Uefa Youth Cup campaign that Patrick Vieira promoted him to the Elite Development Squad at Manchester City. Byrne then capped off an outstanding 2014/15 season by playing in the side that captured the International Premier League Cup by beating Porto 1-nil in the final at the Etihad Campus.
Jack Byrne’s impact at Manchester City meant that they recently made a documentary about him called ‘Home From Home’ which you can watch below.
Ireland’s Great Hope
Jack’s career with Ireland to-date has had plenty of drama with perhaps the highlight coming when he was named the U-17 player of the year for 2013. Jack was called into Noel King’s U-21 side earlier this year, despite only being 18, having faltered somewhat at U-19 level due to falling out of favour with manager Paul Doolin. Having being dropped from the younger group it came as some surprise to see Byrne’s elevation to King’s charges which included another City man, Ian Lawlor, in goals. But Byrne has taken his opportunity and was heavily involved in the U-21’s opening qualifier for the European Championships in Poland in 2017, which saw Ireland beat Andorra 1-nil in March.
Jack Byrne’s progression for the 2015/16 season should see him develop exponentially. A productive loan spell at another club would bring his career on in leaps and bounds but that shouldn’t be the extent of it, because a step-up to the City first-team squad and Martin O’Neill’s Boys in Green are well within his grasp.
- Author: Kevin Dunphy