Despite a string of bad luck, Ciaran Byrne has a mindset like no other
Talk about being shit out of luck...
Ciaran Byrne recently retired after a six year AFL career with Carlton Blues.
Upon his return home, Byrne helped his beloved St. Mochta's to their first Championship title in 38 years.
However, for Byrne it was a short night as he broke his ankle eight minutes after being introduced.
"I didn’t actually start the game, I came on in the second half.
"I was only on for eight minutes then I went up for a catch in the middle of the field landed on the leg and my foot kind of dislocated, so broken ankle and I tore a heap of ligaments.
"No idea but, shit happens!"
It really sums up this young man's attitude. The man they call 'Casey' is made of tough stuff. His mindset is unwavering.
Byrne's stint at Carlton was marred by a series of injuries that began with a ruptured ACL in 2015, keeping him out of action for almost a year.
"Yeah, it’s been a pretty common theme for the last six years. I did the knee in 2015 and ever since then I’ve suffered a fair amount of soft tissue injuries, leading up to this here which has been the most serious of all to be honest."
Despite all the set backs, the Louth man has no regrets about his time 'Down Under', he still managed to have a more successful AFL career than most Irish prospects, making 22 appearances for the Melbourne side, including last season's opening round game against Richmond, which was played in front of 96,000 fans.
His highlight though was his debut against Essendon, and even though he spent a lot of time on the treatment table, Byrne still loved every minute of it.
"My debut against Essendon in 2015, that was pretty surreal. Luckily my parents were there and they ended up on live TV, the two of them were shitting themselves (laughs).
"22 games, I'd have loved to played a lot more, but it was an unreal experience and I wouldn't change anything."
Still only 23, Byrne moved to Australia at 17, a tough age for anyone to leave home. However, he is wise beyond his years, and knew a career in professional sports was meant for him, Carlton knew so to, having watched him develop over the years.
"I was pretty young going over to Australia, 17 when I initially went out for pre season.
"Carlton were going to a fair mount of county and club games, and I didn't realise until I got the call after a game against Meath.
"I went down to a trial with 12 lads, Jack McCaffrey and Ciaran Kilkenny where there, I then went out for 10 days, signed on for two years, and stayed for six. The rest is history."
He admits though that whilst the life of a professional athlete was great, it does come with his pitfalls. Byrne's time was taken over by football, even during the off-season.
Sure, playing sport full time and getting paid for it is great. But money isn't everything to Ciaran Byrne, in fact it ranks at the bottom of the list.
"I 100% enjoyed it, but it's very serious, it consumes your life, even on the off season everything is football, football, football. I don't know how people do it for 16 years.
"The money is good, but it's not all about the money.
"It makes you appreciate GAA, we play for love of it. In Australia, it's a job, don't get me wrong, I love AFL but it's never going to be like GAA with your local community, family and friends."
It's clear that Carlton thought very highly of Byrne. The club were kind enough to let him play in St. Mochta's semi final win last month, despite the fact he was still under contract.
Thank you, Casey.
Ciaran Byrne informed the Club last week of his decision to return to Ireland and retire from AFL football.
— Carlton FC (@CarltonFC) October 15, 2018
Carlton also expressed their interest in keeping Byrne around, but his mind was made up.
"I actually did ask them because my history with injuries, they told me to go ahead.
"We were already in talks then about me retiring anyways, but they were trying to persuade me to stay.
"A few lads where sent over to see me, but in my head my mind was made up. Six years of injuries, so much into it with little reward,
"I still loved my time, but no family and no GAA, at end the day home is home!"
Home is home, and Byrne hopes his return can help steer Louth in a new direction. The young man made his debut for the 'Wee County' in 2013 as a 17 year old. Back then Louth were riding on the crest of a wave, punching above their weight, but those days have since passed.
With the new management team of Wayne Kierans and Cathal Murray in place. Byrne firmly believes that Louth can get back to Division Two of the National League. In his eyes, they have the players, they just need to bring it all together.
" The players are in Louth, we just need the system to come together and drive it forward.
"We do have some decent players, it's about instilling belief. A lot of boys feel they maybe weren't good enough but they are, and if we can get it together there's no reason why we can't compete."
Ciaran Byrne's positive mind frame given all the hardship he has had to endure is nothing short of inspirational, it's clear from talking to him that he is cut from a different cloth.
He's mentally tough, and this latest injury won't deter him whatsoever.
The AFL's loss is most definitely GAA's gain.
Louth fans should be very excited, their prodigal son has returned!