Byrne’s journey into the Blue beyond

by louthandproud on December 16, 2014

in County

Interesting Carlton rookie Ciaran “Casey” Byrne interview with Tony De Bolfo I thought i’d share

They say that time waits for no man . . . and so it is with Carlton’s international rookie Ciaran “Casey” Byrne.

For Byrne, these past 18 months have gone in a blink, and though he’s barely blown out the candles on his 20th birthday cake he still appreciates the urgency.

“Time has gone very quick,” Byrne said between a break in training sessions this week. “It’s been a year and half already, it’s been a whirlwind experience, but I’ve enjoyed every last minute of it.”

Without question, the first fortnight threw up the greatest challenges for Carlton’s international rookie who hails from Ireland’s tiniest county, County Louth.

Half a world away from his father Brendan, mother Pauline, brother Declan and sisters Eimear and Aoife (who at the age of three unwittingly handed Byrne his nickname when incorrectly pronouncing “Ciaran” as “Casey”), Byrne quite understandably experienced homesickness.

That said, he’s forever grateful the club’s support staff, amongst them Rob Wiley and Luke Webster, helped get him through.

Then there were the physical demands – “massive compared to what I was used to back home with Gaelic”.

“The early mornings got me last year, getting up at six o’clock knowing you had to complete a 15k session as well as conditioning and boxing,” said Byrne.

Ciaran Byrne in action for Ireland against Australia, International Rules 2013. (Photo: Supplied)

“It was and is a very hectic schedule, but it’s also something you get used to.”

In reflecting on his all-too-brief tenure at Carlton, Byrne acknowledges the game’s physical demands as the greatest of demands. As he said: “Tackling is probably the hardest area of the game I’ve had to adapt to” and he’s put on weight to help his cause.

And yet, the most fundamental of skills – kicking – has never posed a problem for Byrne – the legacy of a precious piece of pigskin that might one day find its way into this club’s museum.

“I’ve found the oval ball easy enough to adapt to because I’ve slept with a footy since I was 16 . . . and that was because I knew Carlton was interested,” Byrne said.

“When I found that out I got my cousins from Australia to send over a footy. It probably wasn’t the correct size, but I still slept with it and I did everything I could to improve my kicking with it.”

Byrne, not surprisingly, volunteered the names of fellow Irishmen Zach Tuohy and Ciaran Sheehan as enormous sources of influence – Tuohy, for his steady progress through 76 senior appearances; Sheehan for so quickly impacting in four senior games in his first season in the caper.

Ciaran Byrne made good progress in the VFL in 2014. (Photo: AFL Photos)

“Having Ciaran and Zach here has been a massive boost for me,” Byrne said. “Being the younger of the three Irish boys, it helps me having them here in the daddy role, and if ever I do get homesick I can always depend on the boys in giving me a bit of a lift up.”

Sheehan’s quickfire impact on the comp has proved to be particularly stimulating for Byrne.

As he said: “Seeing Ciaran in particular break into the senior side has spurred me on to try to follow in his footsteps”.

“This pre-season I’ll be trying to get through without interruption through injury, get stronger and fitter and hopefully improve myself endurance-wise to push for senior selection at some time during the year,” Byrne said. “But first and foremost I hope to play consistent football in the VFL, maybe off the half-back line.”

Byrne is now a sucker for the Australian way of life. He still ponders with wonderment that he can complete a vigorous training session at Visy Park and then head for the beach – mindful all the while that his milkwhite skin is covered in zinc whenever he ventures there.

Having benefited from the support of his host family who effectively took him in from day one, Byrne has only recently changed digs, and now rooms with Patrick Cripps and Cameron Giles in a house vacated by Bryce Gibbs.

He truly looks forward to reuniting with family and friends back in Ireland over Christmas, and to the good people of Louth he has the following message;

“I’d just like to say that I hope they’re proud of me being over here in Melbourne doing something that I love most – playing professional sport”.

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