City u18s midfield terrier Jack Byrne has spoken to mcfc.co.uk after returning from the Euro Elite qualifiers in Austria with Ireland u17s.
Ireland could consider themselves desperately unlucky not to make this summer’s finals in Slovakia, after a 1-1 draw against Serbia in their final group game saw them finish third in the group.
Jack scored in that game and revealed that, despite their exit, he is proud of what his nation achieved in their three game qualification campaign.
“It’s brilliant to know that the Republic of Ireland can compete with major nations and has started to produce technically gifted players because when people think of Ireland all they think of is big hearts but we actually get the ball down and play now.
“We’ve got a good group of technical players there which encourages us to keep the ball on the floor and to move it around.
“It was heartbreaking to go out like we did and I’m still thinking about it now – to come so close and to actually have beaten Austria, the team that we went out to just made it even more gutting – to know that we were better than them on that day.”
Jack joined City from Ireland's St Kevin’s Boys FC in 2011 and admits that the experience of leaving home as a 16-year old to live in digs has its up and downs.
“I do get homesick – at first it wasn’t so bad because it was exciting to be coming to join a Premier League club but there are times when it’s difficult and you wish you could nip home to check in with the family.
“Ultimately, I have a great opportunity here and when you’re playing or training there’s no problem but we get lots of downtime and that’s when you do wish you could just see what’s happening at home.
“I speak to my family two, three, four times a day, on the phone during the day and then we’ll Skype at night. It's hard but I think it will make me a stronger person in the end.”
City u18s had a difficult start to the campaign but have since improved and are unbeaten in their last five league games – it’s development that can be charted on a collective and individual basis.
“The season started off slow, we were losing quite a lot of games,” Byrne admitted. “Every week we had a very young side but now, since Christmas, we’ve been doing well and we’re gradually getting better and better.
“I think I’ve improved a lot off the ball, I used to be quite lazy – now I think I’m better at pressing and tracking runners."
A fiery individual, Jack’s name has been no stranger to the referee’s notebook but the Dubliner feels that this fiercely competitive spirit gives him and his colleagues an advantage when they’re in combat.
“I like being noticed on the pitch, that’s the way I am, I think it helps my teammates too and gets them fired up,” he said.
“Occasionally that can go too far and I can get into trouble but [Head of Academy Education] Pete Lowe has helped me to channel this in the right way.
"He has quite a good little thing where he says ‘traffic lights’, meaning there’s red, amber and green and when I’m green I’m fine, amber is mean Jack going towards being bad and when I’m red I need to pull myself back.”
If Jack can continue to the tow this notoriously fine line, you may just be hearing a lot more about him in the years to come.