"I definitely idolised her growing up... I always looked up to her" 9 months ago

"I definitely idolised her growing up... I always looked up to her"

"Thank God, against Fermanagh, we brought it home."

Having endured All-Ireland final heartbreak against Limerick in 2018, last year's junior championship victory over Fermanagh tasted all the sweeter for Eimear Byrne.

"The week after winning an All-Ireland is pretty cool," she tells SportsJOE. "There's a lot of stuff on. You have interviews to do and visiting schools. The night we won it was fantastic. We had a home-coming at a local hotel and it was a massive experience for everyone."

An Intermediate All-Ireland is on the summer agenda but, for Byrne and her Louth teammates, promotion from Division 4 of the Lidl National Football League.

If Louth are to advance to Division 3, and take some silverware along the way, they will have to rely on a cohort of young players to get them there, as well as Aoife Byrne. Byrne is one of the best players at the disposal of Wee County manager Wayne Freeman and, as it happens, Eimear's older sister.

"The age profile of the squad is quite young," says Byrne. "It would be around 22 or 23. Aoife will hate me for saying this but she's one of the older girls in the team and she's only turning 29."

Eimear Byrne Aoife Byrne, left, and Eimear Byrne lift the All-Ireland Ladies Football Junior Championship trophy in 2019. (Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile)

We speak with Byrne on the occasion of her 22nd birthday. She is out at Lidl's headquarters in Tallaght to mark the commencement of the 2020 Lidl National Football Leagues and delighted to be rubbing shoulders with the likes of Carla Rowe, Emer Gallagher, Nicola Ward and Aishling Moloney.

2020 will be her fourth year in the senior set-up but she is following a trail blazed by older sister Aoife. "We're from a big footballing family and all of us are into it. We run before we walk in our house, and usually with a football.

"My dad [Brendan] captained the Louth Under 21 team to a Leinster [title] when he was younger. My mam's family would be really into football as well and we've two brothers that also play with Louth. The four of us are often out training on the same nights, up in Darver, so it's pretty cool." On sister Aoife, she says:

"Oh, I definitely idolised her growing up. She's taller than me as well, so I always looked up to her. She's a massive role model for me. Last year, in the All-Ireland final, we both played in midfield together and that is an incredible achievement for myself and herself.

"It's so nice to have her alongside me, even for a bit of encouragement. She's the captain and she leads by example."

The success of 2019 meant it was close to a 12-month season for Louth. The panel was training from late October in 2018 and their All-Ireland Junior run took them all the way to the middle of September last year. "It was such a long year," says Byrne, "and, after that, it was straight into club football as all of those games had to be postponed because Louth had gotten so far.

"And after such an intense run [with Louth] you were straight into this highly competitive club football. A very long year and you're asking yourself, 'Oh God, can we do it all again?' But it's very hard to stay away when you are going good. It's good to keep going and say, 'Right, let's get back and try push on again next year'."

There is serious intent from Byrne and Louth to push on in 2020 and they started their league campaign on a high note, at the weekend. Antrim were soundly beaten 3-11 to 0-6 with both Byrne sisters on the score-sheet and Lauren Boyle grabbing 2-3. Having had a bye week on the opening weekend of fixtures it's a non-stop run until, should they get there, the silverware is again handed out.

A game from each of the seven regulation rounds of Lidl National Football League fixtures will be broadcast live on the Ladies Gaelic Football Association's Facebook page.