Jack Byrne doing things very few footballers would dream of - at any level
Another night in Tallaght, another warm feeling in the tummy that only football at its best can deliver. Thanks be to Jack Byrne.
Shamrock Rovers take a one-goal advantage out to Cyprus with them after coming behind against Apollon Limassol to secure a 2-1 Europa League second round qualifier win.
And like he has been so often this season, Byrne was stuck right in the thick of it. Physically, tactically, emotionally, the Rovers number 29 and his unrelenting mischief comes under stern scrutiny but, with the power of persuasion he has over the ball, the manipulation he exerts over the opposition, with the charm and energy to keep hustling, he has this ability to manoeuvre his way from any trouble as if he was never in any in the first place, and he has this more impressive knack of doing it over and over again.
Since his return to Ireland by way of Man City and SC Cambuur and back to England and Scotland, he's demonstrated a level of technical prowess that has meant another trip across the Irish Sea is labelled as "inevitable" and, whilst there's still time for the 23-year-old to progress his career farther, there might not be as many opportunities for Irish fans to see him play locally - not until he's darkening Lansdowne Road at least.
On Thursday night, in another massive European night on the east coast, Byrne didn't rise to the occasion, he brought the occasion with him.
Two assists he delivered throughout a dominant 90-minute display of guile, composure and a weighted right foot that's making a name for itself as one of the most considerate in the business. Byrne doesn't toss the ball your way and leave the next problem to you, he solves your problem before he's even unleashed his wand. And these performances are just customary from a footballer on a one-man mission to win back shared custody of the patent for 'Wand Of A Foot' from the exclusive left-footers camp.
Lee Grace was the first beneficiary against Apollon when he rose to meet a first half Jack Byrne corner to draw the sides level.
Roberto Lopes was next in line, this time a free, this time an arrowed pass drilled to the near post for the defender to flick home.
Once again, Byrne had the South Dublin natives bouncing, he had them singing his name and, for the rest of the night, he had the ball on a string.
With two minutes to go, with Rovers 2-1 to the good, but with tension looming over Tallaght, one man was a picture of total control. Cypriots were hounding down Byrne and the fee for his head in desperation of an equaliser and presumably just to take their frustration out on the little bollocks tormenting them all night.
But even for what was at stake, even in tight areas with more numbers, they couldn't get near him - the only time they did was when Sachetti lunged at him with two feet for mere retribution, the red card sweet relief from his misery.
— Colm Hand (@colmhand4) July 25, 2019
Stick any professional - at any level - in that position and see how they run it.
Only a select few would even see, never mind execute, what Jack Byrne saw possible.
Turned away from goals, two players right up his arse, another two between him and his next team mate, the sideline in his face, Byrne ventured into more danger and invited more pressure to get out of it and actually set up a chance.
Quibbling over the standard of the League of Ireland isn't relevant to what Byrne does. Questioning the Cyprus opposition, naive. This is a player who is consistently and brilliantly performing difficult tasks in tough situations, the type of which only special footballers can keep doing.
Good players make hard things look easy and that's what Jack Byrne does.
He makes everything look easy.