On Saturday night, Shamrock Rovers midfielder Jack Byrne was named the PFAI Player of the Year 2019 after he beat out Dundalk duo Sean Gannon and Michael Duffy to the award.
The accolade capped off a brilliant first year in the League of Ireland for the former Manchester City man, who helped his Rovers side to second in the Premier Division and their first FAI Cup win for 32 years.
This time last year, Byrne had been released by Scottish side Kilmarnock after an unsuccessful spell, before Stephen Bradley and the Dublin club took a chance and snapped him up.
Speaking to eir Sport after collecting his award, Byrne took the time to thank Rovers for their support throughout the season outlining that he knew from day one the club would be the right fit for him.
“I’m lost for words. It is special because you’ve got that personal connection back with people in this city. I wouldn’t be standing here if it wasn’t for the club, and if it wasn’t for the support that they’ve given me.
“They gave me a platform, when I came home, that nobody else offered me, and the support that nobody else was willing to give to me. I just knew from day one when I walked in there – the people that I was going to be working with and the players that I’d be playing with – that it was going to be a good fit. I’m thrilled to get the award and last Sunday, obviously, with the team, to win the cup means it has been such a great year all around.”
The season also saw Byrne rewarded for his excellent displays at club level with his first senior cap for Ireland. The 23-year-old came on a substitute in the friendly against Bulgaria last month and helped set up two goals.
Byrne recognises how far he has come in the last year as he again prepares for another international break with Ireland and reiterated that his return to prominence has all been thanks to Shamrock Rovers.
“When I came here, I was dead and buried. There was no way back for me,” he explained.
“I wouldn’t have signed a player that was coming back, like I was, a year ago. So to be standing here and collecting this award is all down to them and the faith they showed in me.”