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Shelbourne’s Luke Byrne still smarting over Saints’ cancellation

Shelbourne manager Damien Duff. Photo: Sportsfile

Shelbourne captain Luke Byrne has shared his frustration after last month’s fixture against St Patrick’s Athletic was cancelled, labelling the situation as “very unprofessional”.

The fixture was due to be played on August 7, but was cancelled with less than 48 hours notice after St Pat’s informed the FAI they were unable to source a charter flight home from Sofia following their Conference League qualifier. The game has since been rescheduled for Monday, October 3, with the FAI promising to review fixture policies surrounding clubs involved in UEFA club competitions ahead of next season.

“At that level, how do you not book a flight home?” said Byrne, speaking at the EA Sports FIFA 23 launch.

“It just feels very unprofessional, that it could be allowed to happen. St Pat’s may not be in the wrong, but somewhere along the line what happened shouldn’t have happened.”

Shels were furious over the cancellation, and cited the fact they had played just two home games in three months at the time.

Byrne, meanwhile, admits it took some time to get used to Damien Duff’s intense approach to management, but says he’s now in the most enjoyable time of his career under the Shels manager.

In Duff’s first season in charge, he has led his side to an FAI Cup semi-final against Waterford next month, while they are also all but safe from relegation. They host champions Shamrock Rovers tonight, in the final meeting between the teams this year (7.45).

Former Hoops player Byrne and Duff struck up a relationship when the pair coached Rovers’ U-15 side, before working together with Shelbourne’s U-17s, and reveals what Duff demands from his players.

“Damien is so intense, so professional, that you’d think Thursday is the cup final,” said Byrne.

“The way he’s prepared all week, the detail, the contact you have had with him about the game, about recovery, he treats every game like that. He’s surprised me, definitely.

“It’s hard to get to those levels of concentration every single week.

“Naturally, players will always have a dip, but Damien and his staff don’t dip. You feel the responsibility as a player to replicate that and give that back. If you deserve it, he might cut you in half, but the players still love him.

“I’m saying to the younger players, ‘this isn’t normal, it’s not going to be like this for your whole career’. You have to take as much of it on board as you can, you are getting a life education as well. He’s made a huge influence on me.”

While the Drumcondra side have yet to beat Rovers this season, they will hope to take advantage of the Hoops’ poor away form of late, with Stephen Bradley’s side winning only one of their last six on the road.

“It could be a good time to play Rovers, they’ve had a really busy schedule and played 120 minutes last Sunday.

“On the flip side, they are the top team in the country for the last few years. They’re probably a bit of a wounded animal. We’ll go in full of belief that we can beat them.”

Hoops boss Bradley is aware his side must start well at Tolka Park, something they have found difficult in recent weeks.

“We can’t start like we did in Derry or Gent or we won’t win, but if we hit our levels we can,” he said.

“We know Shelbourne are coming into the game full of confidence and looking to win the game. We’ve got to be ready for that and respect it.”