Louth teenager helps GAA club avoid relegation before starting AFL career

Fintan O'Toole

Louth teenager ciaran Byrne helped his club avoid relegation to junior football last night in his last club game before embarking on an AFL career with the Carlton Blues club.

Byrne was part of the Irish International Rules squad that triumphed in last Saturday’s first test and will be involved next Saturday night in Croke Park for the second test.

He heads to Arizona for a fortnight in December when Carlton are having an altitude training camp before Byrne comes back to Ireland for Christmas and then flies to Australia to embark on a full-time career in early January.

Last night the 18 year-old was delighted to captain and help his club retain their intermediate football status in Louth with a 0-14 to 0-5 victory over Naomh Fionnbarra.

Byrne, who turns 19 in December, explained the origins of the move.

“Two years ago, a boy from Kildare landed at my house and asked was this Ciaran Byrne’s house. He just turned and walked out the gate. I ran after him and said ‘yeah this is Ciaran Byrne’s house.’

“He said, ‘Well some boy from Australia is going to ring you inside the next 24 hours’. He didn’t give a name. he’s still a stranger.”

“I got a phone call to ask me to a trial in Limerick with 16 other boys. I went to the trial, did pretty well in the tests and got the phone call the next day. They came to the house and offered me a two year deal. It came from there.”

Byrne, who lined out for the Louth seniors this summer and hit 0-5 in their qualifier defeat to Kildare in July, believes it was too good an opportunity to turn down.

“Louth is a small county and probably in the next couple of years we are not going to win Leinster or All-Ireland’s. Hopefully they push on in the next couple of years.

“With Aidan O’Rourke there it’s a serious setup, he’s a good man Aidan. It was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. I always wanted to play professional sport.”

Louth’s Ciaran Byrne
Pic: INPHO/Donall Farmer

Armagh’s Kevin Dyas, who previously played for Collingwood, has been helping Byrne adapt and Laois native Zach Tuohy, who currently plays with Carlton, will also be of assistance.

“I have been doing a lot of practice with the oval ball with Kevin Dyas. Bouncing is probably the hardest thing. It’s kind of similar to the punt kick in Gaelic. You adapt to it and get used to it after a while.

“Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve had a good time with Zach. I went to Carlton for two weeks during the summer and I stayed with Zach as well.

“It will be good to have an Irishman at the club. He will be able to understand me as well. A lot of the Aussie boys don’t have a clue what I am saying!”

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