Shels ex UCD scholarship player Conan Byrne had a chat with Jamie Moore before Friday's game
Conan Byrne spent three seasons as a scholarship player at UCD AFC between 2005 and 2007 and has happy memories of his time in Belfield.
“ I will be forever grateful to UCD and in particular Pete Mahon who took a chance on an AUL player and offered me a scholarship to UCD and within a few months I was playing League of Ireland football. I loved the set up, the training and style of football. The lads were brilliant and I’m still friends with the majority of them to this day. It’s a great club.”
Conan was doing a degree in Sports Management and playing for Rivervalley Rangers in the fourth division of the AUL league when he attended the scholarship trials in UCD and was successful. He remembers trying to balance study and football.
“Combining studies with football at UCD is extremely difficult. I was living in Swords so I would be getting a bus to college at 7:30am and not return home till sometimes 10pm that night but you either give your all or nothing. Having said that, you are treated to the best facilities in the country and under Martin Russell, you will be taught the right way to play football so no matter who you are, you will improve under him.”
Like many former players, Byrne looks back fondly on playing under current manager Martin Russell, who was first team coach at the time.
“Martin was the best coach I have worked under in the League of Ireland, there never was an average training session. It was always done at a very high standard and you always walked off the training ground feeling that you could give no more. He got the best out of players and he certainly improved me as a player.”
Conan played 50 times for UCD AFC, winning the Club Player Of The Year in 2007 as well as a Collingwood Cup before signing for Sporting Fingal in 2008. He combined playing with a role as the club’s Marketing Manager.
“It was very difficult at Fingal like most clubs. We did things differently compared to other clubs and I certainly believe that if clubs looked long term rather than just season to season, things could become a lot brighter in the League of Ireland. Unfortunately, that is not happening and all clubs are thinking about is getting people through the gates on a game to game basis rather than trying to come up with ideas of keeping that person coming back over and over.”
After Fingal went bust the midfielder signed for Shelbourne at the start of the 2011 season. Shels were in the First Division at the time but clinched promotion and made it the FAI Cup final, losing to Sligo Rovers.
Shels have maintained their Premier Division status but Byrne had hoped for better season.
“We have had a poor enough season. We left a lot of points out on the pitch and we conceded so many late goals in games. We haven’t been good enough this season but we did have a great cup run and hopefully things can get better for next year. We did pick up some great results and performed very well in certain games but our consistency let us down. However, we only are up from the First Division so our aim was to consolidate ourselves in the league and push on next year. Hopefully that will happen.”
Away from football Conan is a coach and part time teacher in a secondary school in Rush and also runs his own charity ‘The Conan Byrne Zambian Missions’ where he bring secondary school students over to Zambia to work with disabled kids in a Cheshire Home run by the Presentation Sisters. He is heading over to Zambia again on the 9th of November once the season finishes.
As with most LOI players, Conan’s contract expires at the end of this season and he faces an uncertain few months ahead.
“I certainly want to play more regularly next season and win another medal of some sort. I really don't know if I will be here next year!! Time will tell I’m sure!!”
For info on Conan’s charity visit facebook.com/Conan-Byrne-Zambian-Missions