Cork City midfielder Alec Byrne is longing for the simple joy of sport

Cork City midfielder Alec Byrne is longing for the simple joy of sport
Preston North End's Billy Bodin is tackled by Alec Byrne of Cork City in a friendly at Turner's Cross last season. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

CORK CITY star Alec Byrne is missing the simple things, such as training with his team-mates, or a family meal, because of the coronavirus.

Before the lockdown, Byrne had a hectic schedule of training and study, but the slower pace imposed by social distancing has positives: He gets to relax a little more, improve his own game, and put a little extra into his studies.

“It’s such weird circumstances for everyone, at the moment, and, for me, I’m still getting used to adapting to a different lifestyle,” said Byrne.

“Trying to keep myself busy and occupied is probably the biggest challenge, as I’m so used to having a busy schedule, with training and matches.

“It’s been tough not meeting as a group, with the team. I miss training with all the lads and seeing them every day, having a laugh and playing the game you love,” Byrne said.

“Training by yourself can be challenging, when motivation levels are low, as you have no one looking over you.

“But it can be good, also. When you’re working by yourself, you can really try to improve yourself, whereas, when you are with the team, it’s more of how to improve as a team. So, there are lots of positives and negatives to training by yourself,” Byrne said.

“Our assistant manager, Joe (Gamble), has sent us all on a very detailed programme, consisting of running and gym work.

“This is like a five-day programme, so it is challenging, but rewarding. There is a system online, where you jot down what you did for that particular day and, if you forget to update it on a particular day, he will be sending you a text straightaway, which is good, as he keeps you on your toes,” Byrne said.

The 20-year-old midfielder, from Carrigaline, is very driven, which is evident from his playing style as well as from meeting him. Motivating this young man to train by himself was never going to be a problem.

“Yes, it is fair to say I am a very motivated guy,” Byrne said.

“Training every day is all I really know, as I’ve been doing it from such a young age, so it’s not much of a challenge, as I enjoy all of it. I’ve been doing all sorts of work.

“Fitness, speed, and strength in the gym, so I suppose I’m trying to turn this negative into a positive and just improve my all-round game,” he said.

“I hope the season will resume, but, I suppose, no one really knows.

“Things are constantly changing, so it is hard to tell. Hopefully, we will be back by the end of the year.

“Obviously, a couple of months with no matches will be very difficult, but everyone is in the same boat, so we’ll just have to get on with it. Health is the main priority,” Byrne said.

“With the speculation of playing behind doors, although not ideal, there might not be any other feasible options, so if it is for the safety of the all-round public, I suppose that’s what we will have to do. It won’t be the same as a packed-out stadium, with fans chanting and the passion, but, again, everyone is in the same boat, so we will just have to do whatever is best for everyone,” Byrne said.

Alec Byrne before Cork City training. Picture: Jim Coughlan
Alec Byrne before Cork City training. Picture: Jim Coughlan

“Prior to the Covid-19 disruptions, obviously, collectively, we weren’t happy with a few results, but I think there were a couple of positives and encouragements to take.

“We just need to learn from the past and make ourselves harder to beat and provide up top, which I think we will do over the next few months. Personally, I felt I did well in a couple of games, notching ‘man of the match’ and my first league goal, which is always good, but I think myself and the team can use this time as an advantage to improve again and better ourselves,” Byrne said. 

“There are lots of positives to take from this disruption.

“We can improve other aspects of our game, like gym work, but also, for me, I’m in the middle of exams, so it is after giving me time to study, which I wouldn’t have had if this pandemic didn’t happen.

“I’m in UCC, doing arts, with a joint-honours degree of economics and geography,” Byrne said. “I’m currently in my second year of that and I really enjoy it, so by me fitting in time to study means, sometimes, it does have its positives, but also brings negatives.

“It is another thing to take your mind off of the football side of things, which I like, as it keeps me distracted when training is done, but, sometimes, it can bring lots of stress, as you miss lots of college, due to commitments with sport, so exam season can bring added pressure, as well as soccer matches,” Byrne said.

“But right now, although I miss football, big time, the main priority would be for the general population to be risk-free of any virus. Whatever decision is made for whenever to return to football, we have to remind ourselves that it is in the best interest of everyone. 

"I miss the things I took for granted every day, like training and having a laugh with the lads, meeting up with my friends and family, and just being able to go wherever, whenever I wanted, even out for a meal,” he said.

“Hopefully, normality isn’t too far away and we can all get back to doing stuff we enjoy,” Byrne said.

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