Luke Byrne: “We have a responsibility to the supporters”

A big travelling contingent will be with the Reds on the road to Derry tomorrow night for the crucial SSE Airtricity League of Ireland Premier Division clash (7:45pm KO)

The away allocation will be sold out when Damien Duff’s side arrive at the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium.

Ahead of tomorrow’s trip Duff delivered an injury update to

“Andy Quinn is back, which is a big plus. JR Wilson was also on the pitch this week, which is positive. Sean Boyd is also back on the grass and hoping to be involved in the run in. Matty Smith and Daithi Folan are out of action. 

“Brian McManus is also added to the long term list, he’s had another operation after a bad tackle against Dundalk, my heart breaks for Brian. He’s going to miss the rest of the season, particularly hard on him because he was coming back and playing well.” 

After training on Thursday, caught up with club captain Luke Byrne to preview the game with Derry. Meetings with Ruaidhri Higgins side have been close run affairs this year, with two draws home and away, and a 1-0 win going the way of the Candystripes at Tolka Park. Byrne believes the Reds have grown in confidence across the campaign:

“You take belief that you can compete and take points off a team that’s tipped to win the title, that’s a mentality that we have built within ourselves. Constantly turning up and approaching games with confidence, fully believing we can beat anyone, and that’s shown, there’s not been much in any game with Derry this season

“Now it’s about maturing again as a group and we have to come out and win those close games, and we’re seeing that now. We came from behind to get the win against Pats, deservedly beat Dundalk, in general we’re on a good run of form.

“We have huge respect for Derry, a quality team, a lot of talent in every position but we have no fear tomorrow night.”

Before the international break the Reds beat Dundalk 1-0, Byrne believes while the recent run of fixtures has made it difficult to gain meaningful momentum, that win will stand to them:

“It’s an unusual time of the year. We were building momentum, and then there’s a break in September. You play a few games then, you’ve got another break, we have come off another break, the recent win was massive. It put some distance between us and Dundalk, keeping us in the hunt along with Bohs, Derry, and St Pats.

“We had a tough week training, we didn’t do any kind of down week. We worked hard, and the staff started planning for this week’s game. If anything it was good to get bodies right this break, it gave a chance to rest the guys who have been carrying us in recent games, playing a lot of minutes.

“Also, we’ll be playing on an astro pitch up there. We’ve trained on one all week in preparation for it. The week has gone really well.”

The away end will be at capacity when the Reds take to the pitch at the Ryan McBride Brandywell, the Shels defender says the fans have had an incredible impact this year:

“The manager says it every week, it’s so true, fans has been amazing for this group, both at home and away. During the UCD game in the middle of summer, we filled the entire stand, then for Bohs at Dalymount Park, it was a scramble for tickets. They couldn’t be got anywhere. Even newcomers like Harry Wood have commented on the incredible support we get. He’s never seen anything like that in his career in England, the passion, energy and chanting.

“We never take it for granted. We’re not allowed to be honest, the manager emphasises this point at least once a week. He’s made us all aware of the fact people sacrifice their time and spend their hard-earned money to be here. We have a responsibility to them to show up and give our all on the pitch. It’s a non-negotiable commitment this group lives by.”

With three games remaining the Reds are in the mix for a finish in the European places, an extraordinary place to be having only being promoted ahead of the start of the 2022 season, Byrne one of the Reds longest serving players feels the manager Damien Duff’s role in the transformation of the club has been massive:

“I’ve been with the club for five years, and it’s a different place, unrecognisable really, what the manager has done here is really special, he’s only getting started, he has been the driving force behind almost everything positive that’s happened here over the last two seasons. He’s elevated the standards both on and off the pitch.

“The manager’s influence has transformed the mentality of the players, staff, academy and really for me I think the entire club. How he is in the day day-to-day interactions with the players, the demands and standards set around our commitment or our performance, he’s been the catalyst for setting the club on a positive path where we can compete for Europe again.

“I think players are inspired by what they see and hear. I’ve been in the league for 12 years and I’ve never come across anyone like him. Players look up to him, they believe in him, I think the fans as well love him and what he does for this club, we follow him into battle on a Friday, the whole club is behind Damien, players love him, we would die for him on the pitch on a Friday night, because we know he’d do the same for us. In years to come, I think lads in our dressing room will look back at this time of their career and know just how fortunate they were to be at Shels.”

A chronic knee issue has curtailed Luke Byrne’s progress this season but the defender knows that while playing a different role, his place within the group and how he carries himself is vitally importance:

“This is my first time being out of the team, but I have faith in the manager’s choices, whether I’m in the lineup or not. The lads who’ve been on the pitch have performed exceptionally well, that’s reflected in our defensive record.

“My role is to stay professional, maintain my fitness, and be ready whenever I’m called upon. As the captain, I understand that my responsibilities extend beyond what happens on a Friday. I take great pride in leading by example.

“The manager consistently emphasises that it’s a squad game throughout the year, and I’m no different from anyone else in that regard.”

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