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International rookie Byrne signs with Blues

Tony De Bolfo  August 15, 2013 10:59 AM

18-year-old Ciaran Byrne hails from Dundalk in County Louth, Ireland. (Photo: Carlton Football Club)

18-year-old Ciaran Byrne hails from Dundalk in County Louth, Ireland. (Photo: Carlton Football Club)

Ciaran’s a good athlete and a good running player, in keeping with all Gaelic footballers. He stands 6’2 or 6’3 in the old measurement and is quite an athletic player.

Carlton has strengthened its links with the Land of the Blarney, signing Ciaran Byrne as an International Rookie for the next two seasons.

The club’s General Manager – Football Operations Andrew McKay said this week that Byrne, who carries Category B Rookie status for not having played AFL football in the past three seasons, had committed to terms.

“Ciaran has agreed to join us as a Category B for 2014 and ’15,” McKay said.

McKay said that the club’s consultant had assisted Recruiting Manager Wayne Hughes in identifying Byrne’s talent in Ireland, and that the player had refined his skills under close supervision for the past 18 months.

Asked to draw obvious comparisons with the club’s other Irish import Zach Tuohy, McKay said the 18 year-old Byrne, who hails from Dundolk in County Louth, stood slightly taller but was more finely built than the International Rookie from Port Laoise.

“Ciaran’s a good athlete and a good running player, in keeping with all Gaelic footballers,” McKay said. “He stands 6’2 or 6’3 in the old measurement and is quite an athletic player.”

McKay envisaged that Byrne was very much a medium to long-term prospect at Carlton given his unconventional background.

“It’s all well and good to kick and catch, but you also need to understand where the ball’s going to go and to read the play a bit . . . and he’s never played the game before,” McKay said.

“So it’s going to take some time.”

But McKay said Byrne expressed no qualms in relocating, for he understood the magnitude of the opportunity.

As he said: “It is the chance of a lifetime, particularly when you consider the economic climate in Ireland at the moment, and any reservation he had was put to bed when he recently spent two weeks here with the boys”.

Byrne recently completed his second visit to Visy Park, during which time he joined the current senior playing group in a series of general training sessions. McKay noted that Byrne had also been privy to Tuohy’s continued good form “and it’s been good for Ciaran to see what can be achieved when you put your mind to it”.

Having recently earned a call-up to Ireland’s International Rules squad from which a team will be selected to meet the Indigenous All-Stars touring party in a two-Test series, Byrne will renew acquaintance with the Carlton players on their return to Arizona in early December.

He will then return to Ireland to spend Christmas before jetting into Melbourne to commence training with Carlton early in the New Year.

Hughes said that the process of first identifying and securing Byrne “was something we’ve taken time with to make sure we’ve got it right”.

“He (Byrne) is very determined to give it a go,” Hughes said, “and his parents are looking forward to coming out and seeing Australia, which is all part of making sure his parents are comfortable about where their son is going.

“Because the county is not a strong county in terms of size or population, the fact that he’s been included in the Ireland International Rules squad is a real feather in his cap. He’ll be rubbing shoulders with Pearce Hanley and of course Zach, which augurs well for him.”

If recent history is anything to go by, then Byrne is already well and truly part of the Blues’ fold.

As Hughes said: “The boys already call him Casey – a nickname he inherited years ago because his younger sister couldn’t pronounce ‘Ciaran’”.

And in Tuohy, Byrne has a very special mentor.

“I’ve always said I’ll always encourage any Irish player to come over and give it a go . . . it’s not a holiday – it is hard work, you need to be determined and it has to be what you want to do,” Tuohy said.

“I always liked the idea of having another Irish teammate and hopefully I can help Ciaran out the same way Setanta (O’hAilpin) helped me out early on.

“Ciaran’s got a lot of talent. He’s got a lot of attributes that would really suit AFL. He seemed to enjoy his time here and I’m very confident he’ll come out, be here for a long time and become a very good player.”