“Gaelic football is central. I took that obsessive Aussie Rules thing
TO EVERYONE, it seemed like he was living life. Ciarán Byrne spent six years in the AFL with Carlton, scoring over 20 games. He left as he pleased to return home, start his own business and play football. Sweet life.
Then he landed. A game that had always seemed easy was suddenly demanding. In his first game he caught a mark and started to roll back, like they do in Australian rules. “What are you up to? roared the sideline. His inner monologue roared louder.
His second game? A county final. He jumped for a ball and thundered back to earth, his ankle taking the hit and breaking. The dream of returning has turned into a nightmare. After Louth recently won the Division 3 Finals, Byrne had to revisit that streak. He left a simple lesson. Enjoy what you can because you will endure a lot too.
Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO
“Over the past two years, it has been difficult for everyone around me. I was homesick, so I was mad to go home,” he admits.
“I came home to play football and was arrested with this ankle injury. I went through a pretty tough time mentally. Even in Australia, it was the same with a few injuries.
“Look, there’s no point in saying that life has been simple. From the outside they say Ciarán Byrne spent six years in Australia and had the best of his life. It’s like everything else, you have ups and downs. You struggle some days. Other days you buzz.
“My first time playing with Louth at Croke Park was special. That’s where I want to be. I love football. Without it I don’t know what I would do.
“It’s worth it. I work so hard. I wake up and the first thing I think about is how I feel in my body. What should I eat today? What should I do before my next training session? training?
“Gaelic football is central. I would say my wife is fit to kill me at this point. I took this obsessive thing from Australia I guess.
Always a one-sided mind. It was just one of many indicators that the St Mochta clubman was destined for the top. He made his debut for Louth as an 18-year-old at Newbridge when he hit Kildare for five runs in a qualifier. AFL scouts had already decided to recommend his signing after scoring nine of his side’s 10 points in a minor football semi-final away to Leinster. In fact, they claim to have made the call based solely on his warm-up that day.
But this professional game has taken its toll. Days after his Carlton debut, he suffered a season-ending hamstring injury. The following season, it was the ACL. By the time he got home, he wasn’t picking up where he left off: he was starting from a new place.
This league final was his first full game this season due to a groin problem. Byrne went 0-4 from the game. He wanted a lot more.
“I am very self-critical. I still wasn’t happy with some of the things I did there. It was the first full game I played in a few months. I was adjusting, trying to have a good body, which is always a difficult thing.
“Look at the thing with Australia, I was there for six years. What it did to my body…it just had a huge effect. I had issues with worries and some injuries, but the two injuries main ones had a huge effect on me.
“The ACL in 2015 and the dislocated ankle in 2018 when I came back. It had a huge effect on my body. I know myself that if I can have a good body, I can be one of the best footballers at the moment. If I can do it, damn it. There’s no reason I can’t have more big days.
The number of times he has re-watched this match is in double digits. That soul-searching has always lingered below the surface, but a career in professional sports has ingrained it into his being. It was a sport with extended review sessions. Always on the lookout for the smallest details. Half a step too far to the left. A ball drops an inch too high. Squeeze every ounce.
“Australia really exacerbated it. I’ve always been competitive. I want to be the best and Australia just went further. I guess it makes you obsessed. What you eat, how you train Post-game reviews all the time.
Is it still useful? The answer is an emphatic no. But this mindset cannot be pushed or pulled. It’s part of his essence, for better or for worse.
“If you appreciate it, that’s when you’re at your best. But you can’t force that.
“I remember my first AFL game, I had no idea and it was probably one of the best games I’ve played. It was improvised, to get the ball back. I want to talk about it here. I didn’t think of anything. I went out to have fun. There’s a lot to be said for that, but I guess it’s easy to say.
Over the past few weeks, he has begun to blossom and demonstrate the full range of his skills. Kick marks with his left and right, moving away from defenders with raw pace, doing it all with a distinct poise.
At Croke Park, he lifted the ball off the ground and scored on the spin. Against Carlow last week, a long kick broke out nicely and Byrne played football style, slotting into the bottom corner for his second of five goals. The burnished look of confidence is back.
Professional sport instilled in him certain fundamentals that are close to his heart today.
“There, ball handling is so important. Peripheral vision. It’s a 360 degree game, so you can get tackled from anywhere. Especially behind. This realization which does everything quickly and which goes away, with the left hand or with the right hand, must be very clear. Coming here is easier.
“Another thing is the timing of your jump. Gaelic football is not much of a bar jumping sport, perhaps the odd one in midfield. You really learn to jump and time it correctly. I look at the notes of (Conor) Glassy, Stefan (Okunbor). I took one against Offaly. Learning how to perform it correctly keeps you in good stead.
Source: Brian Reilly-Troy/INPHO
Byrne runs a Pilates studio in Dundalk. It is a practice that resisted him during his convalescence in Australia. So much so that he now believes every footballer should use some form of Pilates. Its specialized version incorporates a reformer machine. It is a low impact exercise where he can get into certain compromised positions without pain.
“The Reformer Pilates didn’t hit the big time in Ireland. it was a niche. I fell in love with it in Australia and it was a big part of what I did. I studied it there and when I returned. It pairs well with being inter-county football. I’m 27 now and you have a small window. I want to play as long as possible. »
The vibrant vibe spreads throughout the county. He envelops them. A force field of Mickey Harte’s fervor and Sam Mulroy’s artistry and a vocal cohort of enthusiastic supporters. O’Connor Park and Kildare await you.
“There’s a positive feeling in the county and that wasn’t really the case before. The players didn’t want to play for Louth. Now you go to the games and the kids are shouting the names of the guys.
“We’re not the only players. We have 40 in our squad, I’m not saying that cliche. I’m thinking of someone like Ciaran Downes, he was just amazing in the league. Everyone who watched him will tell you.
“We’re starting to get a good mix. We’re quite young and since I’ve been involved with Louth, the camaraderie is just unmatched. There is a good buzz at the moment. Long may this continue.