ALTHOUGH it’s his third season in charge of Everton seniors, after Covid disruptions it’s a first full season, hopefully, for Willie Byrne as he and his management have assembled a very good side to contest the first division of the MSL.
The 43-year-old from Ballyphehane took on his first managerial role with the Togher club and is excited about the season ahead.
“It’s great to be back to a full season, hopefully, as after the Covid disruptions, lads are raring to be back playing,” said Byrne.
“Pre-season went great for us. There were a lot of positives to take from the games we played.
“We played Cork City, Cobh Ramblers, Carrigaline and our junior side and these games really pushed our lads to the limit with regards to both football and fitness.”
The former Rockmount star has assembled a mixture of youth and experience in his squad and although he expects the league to be very competitive, he hopes his side can be in the mix to compete at the top end of the table.
“I signed 17 lads, brought a few from the junior team and also have a few of the youths training with us.
“It’s important to bring the youth through the set up. Alan O’Mahony, Sean Sweeney, Cian O’Brien, Will Aherne, Alan Greaney, Chris Fox, Brendan Keating, Jason Dunphy, Kelvin Connolly, all great lads along with youngsters such as Seán Caulfield, Pa Murphy, Anto Brothers, Jack Allen, Stephen O’Kelly, Oisin Sutherland, Callum Sexton, and Dean Walsh.
“We recently added Alan (Stewy) O’Sullivan who adds loads of experience and a guy I tried to sign on a few occasions so it’s great to have him. I’m still hoping to sign another few to add to a great squad.
“We got off to a good start with a 4-1 away win against a tough Ballinhassig side.
“This weekend we take on Park. Again I expect this to be another tough test. The First Division will once again be very competitive with the likes of Castleview and Blarney expected to compete for honours.
“However, I also expect Leeds, Leeside, Bandon, and Park, all difficult places to go to; however, I would like to think we would be in the mix somewhere.”
For anyone involved in management, they will know the importance of having a good backroom staff, and Byrne is no different.
“I have a great backroom staff and great support from all involved at the club. When I was asked by Keith Gahan to take the role as manager I initially declined as it had been a few years since I was involved in football.
“However, after a discussion with Keith, Stephen Crowley, and Tony O’Regan, I bought into their passion and heart for what they want to achieve at the club and I quickly got a buzz for it.
“I immediately contacted Aidan Minty Murray as my assistant, added with Niall Harrington, whom both have massive experience as players and coaches.
“What’s great about both lads is that they aren’t afraid to voice their opinions and that’s important for me that I have lads who will challenge me if needed and because of this, I believe we will work well together.
“We’ve also added Paul Lynch, Gary O’Connell, and Paul Drummond. All lads have been so helpful and, honestly, without them, Stephen Crowley, Gerry Stanton, and our sponsors Alan O’Riordan Motors, Flannerys, and Centra, anything we’re doing wouldn’t be possible.
Byrne began his own playing career with Casement and had spells with Cobh, Cork City, and Waterford before a successful eight years with MSL side Rockmount under the legendary Billy Cronin.
“I’ve been lucky to enjoy so many years of playing the game. I gained so much experience at the various clubs, I have been lucky enough to enjoy a lot of success.
“Being involved in football is so rewarding but also can be so frustrating. A good friend of mine, Mick Deasy, manages Leeside and we spend a lot of Saturday evenings on the phone giving out, asking why we do it but the phone call always finishes up with ‘talk to you same time next week for our counselling sessions’,” laughs Byrne.
“So look, at the end of the day, we do it because we love the game and I hope we can have a great season.”