Byrne revels in special occasion
By Daire Walsh
IRELAND’S final game in the Guinness Series last Saturday against Argentina was a particularly special one for Kill’s Adam Byrne, who made his senior international debut in a 28-19 victory for the hosts.
Byrne was called up by Joe Schmidt (who handed him his first Leinster cap as an 18-year-old back in December 2012) for the three November tests in the Aviva Stadium, but after he was left out of the matchday squad for previous meetings with South Africa and Fiji, many felt his chance of being involved had gone.
Yet, he was given the nod to start alongside Jacob Stockdale (who recorded tries in both halves) and Rob Kearney in the Irish back-three, and acknowledged that it had been an incredible week for him in the lead up to the game.
“It was incredible. You always have to be ready to play, but I thought maybe my chance had gone. It’s hard to tell if you’re going to be involved, but Monday night I was kind of like ‘you know, maybe’. When the team was announced on Tuesday, it was surreal. It was incredible, and telling my parents and stuff. They were obviously delighted,” Byrne remarked after the game.
“Once the team was [publicly] announced on Thursday, I got some really, really nice messages from a lot of people. I’ve tried to make sure I knew my detail, and I just wanted to fit in. I didn’t want to sit back. I wanted to try to obviously add to the team. It was just incredible from leaving the Shelbourne today, and seeing the support. Even just seeing the support throughout the week, it was really special.”
Byrne was the final available player from the original squad to get game-time over the course of the series, with most of those who didn’t feature in the opening test win over South Africa getting a chance to impress in the narrow triumph at the expense of Fiji last Saturday week.
He did play his part in the build-up to the latter game, however, and this gave him a taste of what to expect when he eventually made his way onto the Ballsbridge field.
“For me, I just wanted to learn as much as possible coming into a new environment. Obviously with a great coaching staff, and the best players in Ireland. I was trying to learn as much as possible.
“Last week I was a reserve, and even just the experience, the whole build-up and doing the warm-up was incredible. I was kind of thinking, ‘you know, this is where I want to be’. It was incredible to get the nod for today.”
With just a solitary appearance under Schmidt during his time with Leinster, Byrne has gained a much greater insight into how the New Zealander operates in the past few weeks.
The former Naas CBS student is glad that Schmidt treated him the same way as the other players within the squad, and also enjoyed working with the other coaches currently involved in the Irish set-up.
“He’s been really good. He’s just treated me like anyone else, and expecting me to know my stuff. I like that he didn’t go easy on me. He’d give out to me if I did something wrong, the same as he would to anyone else. He’d obviously say well done if I did something good. Its been great. He has stay in touch [in recent times], and given me a few work-ons.
“A lot of things that I’ve tried to bring to my game. Once I came in, I stayed on top of them. Especially working with Andy Farrell, Simon Easterby and Feeky [Greg Feek] as well. I’ve tried to stay on top of them, and hopefully I’ll bring them back to Leinster as well, and just keeping pushing on.”
The county of Kildare has been well-represented on the international rugby stage in recent years, with the likes of Jamie Heaslip (Naas), Fergus McFadden (Suncroft) and Joey Carbery (Athy) becoming regular fixtures in Ireland squads.
Indeed, there was a slice of history on Saturday, as Byrne was joined on the field by fellow Kill native James Tracy for the closing stages of the contest. Tracy took the place of the injured Peter O’Mahony for the final five minutes, and Byrne agreed that this was a special moment for his home village.
“That was a very special moment as well. I remember with Leinster for, I think it was my first start in the RDS, him and Josh [van der Flier, his housemate] helped set me up for a try. It was a special moment.
“Kill, it’s getting bigger, but it’s a relatively small village. To have two people from the same village, and the same parish, it was great. It was a nice moment to have him on the pitch at the end,” Byrne added.