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'Mick won't get carried away' | Cunningham on Jack Byrne's debut

Ryan Clarke
Ryan Clarke

12:38 11 Sep 2019

The late Arthur Ashe famously said that success is a journey, not a destination. Nowhere will that message be felt more keenly today than with Jack Byrne.

In winning his first senior international cap, the door is now firmly closed on what was a difficult period after his meteoric rise to prominence.

The journey to the Aviva Stadium brought him from Manchester to the Netherlands, via Ayrshire in Scotland. With a couple of stops in England along the way.

Shamrock Rovers and Stephen Bradley showed faith in Jack Byrne to apply his talent and now Ireland fans have seen what the fuss was all about.

“He had a few loans moves, never settled, which I understand. He’s found a home with Stephen Bradley who looks after him, makes him the main player and he’s flourished with that,” Stephen Hunt said on Wednesday morning’s OTB AM.

With a starring cameo against Bulgaria that helped the Boys in Green to a 3-1 win, Byrne won’t get carried away. Neither will Kenny Cunningham who said Mick McCarthy has good options going forward.

Going into the final three games of qualification for Euro 2020, the former Ireland defender thinks McCarthy now faces intriguing tactical choices and Byrne adds to that headache.

“Jack Byrne for me is a number 10. We can only accommodate him as a number 10. I don’t think he can play in a midfield three.

“In terms of that defensive nouse, I don’t think he has that in him to play in a midfield three.

“So for him to play, and for Mick to adjust the formation, maybe he plays with the midfield two and a number 10.

“Maybe that’s when the conversation starts about whether Jack Byrne can start off a lone striker or not,” Cunnigham said.

Stick or twist appears to be the order of the day. McCarthy has often deployed a three-man midfield since his return to Ireland.

If he does decide to change the approach this late, Cunningham thinks McCarthy could play two centre-forwards instead of a 'Byrne-type'.

“Jack was great for 20 minutes last night but I don’t think we should get too carried away in terms of ‘Mick’s got to pick him.’

“Mick’s been around long enough not to get too carried away with that performance and we’ve got other options there. Callum Robinson, James Collins came in and done very well.

“I think we’ve got great options across the front line. Ronan Curtis’ second-half performance was very encouraging, Callum O’Dowda showed just enough,” Cunningham explained.

Whatever comes to pass away in Georgia next month, Jack Byrne will be aware that “the doing is often more important than the outcome.”

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