Rugby - Byrne's a Refreshing Exception to the Prototypes

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), June 24, 2005 | Go to article overview

Rugby - Byrne's a Refreshing Exception to the Prototypes


RUGBY'S regimented regime in the professional era has produced prototype players but Shane Byrne is a refreshing exception.

It isn't just that the man with the mullet's hairstyle doesn't conform to the modern image. He's not cut from the cloth of clichs and bland sports-speak either.

The unashamed enthusiasm and delight with which Byrne, the father of young twins, goes about his business readily comes across in interviews and you seldom see him without a smile on his face.

He waited a long time, mainly in the inimitable Keith Wood's shadow, to hit the big-time and now that it's here he's determined to enjoy every minute of what is a glorious autumn to his career which has so far brought him 38 Ireland caps.

First called up to the Ireland senior squad in 1994, Shane spent seven lean years waiting for that elusive first cap and although he wondered at times whether it would ever come, he kept working hard and also kept true to his own individualistic image.

Tomorrow morning in Christchurch, he will cap a truly heart-warming story by packing down in the middle of the Lions front row against the All Blacks in the first Test.

Ironically, it was the last Lions tour which finally allowed him to realise his dream of being capped by his country, coming off the bench in a one- off Test against Romania in Bucharest when Wood was Down Under.

That was just before his 30th birthday and although the first cap came in what many might have regarded as the early twilight of a career, for the popular player it was only the start of what would be a joyous journey culminating in Christchurch this weekend.

"If I told you that making the Lions Test team was a dream come true, I'd be lying, for I honestly never dreamt during my career that this could happen.

My aims were to win with Leinster and play for my country, so this is beyond my wildest dreams.

"With Ireland going well over the past season and a half, there was talk that I'd a chance of making the touring squad, especially with four hookers going, but winning a starting spot for the first Test is something else entirely'' he enthuses. …

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