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'He would glide by in games and then BAM!' | Stuey Byrne on Deportivo star

Stuey Byrne was this week's guest for some Champions League nostalgia with Joe Molloy on Off The ...


'He would glide by in games and then BAM!' | Stuey Byrne on Deportivo star

Stuey Byrne was this week's guest for some Champions League nostalgia with Joe Molloy on Off The Ball.

The ex-Shelbourne forward was only too happy to look back on some of his own Champions League experience back in 2004 with Shelbourne against Deportivo la Coruna at a sold-out Lansdowne Road in the third round of qualifying.

It was a brilliant occasion, one that Byrne admits brings back lovely memories, despite the enormity of the task facing his side on the evening.

Video footage

To prepare for the game against Deportivo, Byrne, for the first time in his career was given video footage to analyse. The matches he had to study wouldn't ease any concerns about the size of the mountain in front of Shelbourne.

"I was given two DVDs," recalls Byrne, "One of the semi-final against Porto (then managed by Jose Mourinho), the other was the win against AC Milan, where they hammered them 4-1."

'We had adopted a very specific tactic in that run in 2004, Pat (Fenlon) was a very young manager at the time and Eamonn Collins. they were on to a few scouts and we had learned a few harsh lessons the year before.

"Primarily, what wins you games in Europe is quality, those one or two players that will do something different."

Byrne spoke about previous campaigns where Shelbourne had near misses in the Champions League. Pat Fenlon observed that the opponents who had got the better of them, despite being outplayed, were able to rely on a moment of quality, that Shels could not.

"Pat had identified this,' recalled Byrne, "He brought in Joseph N'Do, we already had Wes Hoolahan, who was starting to really turn it on, but hadn't played too many European games."

"We had identified tactically teams tended to play with two sitting midfielders, but they always had a number ten, that guy who could create something and they normally played with one up front."

These tactical observations let to a very specific role for the Shelbourne midfielder throughout the entire European campaign. "Pat pulled me aside,' remembered Byrne, "he says to me, 'that's your job, we're going to stick you on every number ten for the campaign."

It was not a familiar role but hurt from previous European disappointments led to a universal buy-in form Byrne and the entire Shelbourne outfit.

On the night of the game against Deportivo, the man for Stuey Byrne to mark was Juan Carlos Valeron, a decorated Spanish international who Andres Iniesta was a fan of.

"He would glide by in games and then 'bam!'" remembers Byrne from his video analysis.

As well as the video analysis, the build-up to the game was unprecedented for an Irish team, Shelbourne were the story that week.

"Things just went into the stratosphere," according to Byrne, "we had Sky Sports News following us around for the week" after they had beaten Hajduk Split eight days previously.

The stuff dreams were made of

On the night Byrne did his job on Valeron: "I did well, he didn't score, I actually think he got a little bit annoyed with me. I never left his side."

On what was a lovely evening at Lansdowne, the Champions League music came on, "that was the stuff that dreams were made of," says the former Shels midfielder.

"Everyone did their job, everyone played well," says Byrne of the 0-0 draw in Dublin.

They did well in the first half of the second leg too, keeping that Deportivo side goalless for 135 miutes was a worthy achievement.

While tiredness was a factor Byrne believes, "we got caught by quality really" in that second half of the second leg, when Shelbourne fell to a 3-0 defeat.

"I saw one of the best goals I ever saw in real life,' was one of Byrne's silver linings from the defeat.

"Victor, about 40 yards out and this guys just pings it in the top corner. Sure what could you do?"

Stuart Bryne was talking to OTB as part of our Champions League Best Moment series, in association with Virgin Media Sport  #WeFreeSport”.

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Champions League Deportivo Lansdowne Road Shelbourne Stuey Byrne Valeron