My Kildare Life interview with Kildare hurler Brian Byrne from Naas

Captained the hurlers to Christy Ring victory 2018

Sarah Peppard

Reporter:

Sarah Peppard

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sarah.peppard@leinsterleader.ie

My Kildare Life interview with Kildare hurler Brian Byrne from Naas

Brian Byrne

Brian (22) from Naas captained the Kildare hurlers to Christy Ring victory earlier this year.

Brian is the son of Pauline and Paul, and has two siblings Shane and Amy. Brian attended Holy Child National School, Ballycane, from junior infants to 2nd class. He moved up to St Corban’s Primary school for four more years, finishing in sixth class. He went to Naas CBS secondary school and college in UCD.

WHAT IS YOUR FIRST KILDARE MEMORY? 

My dad’s parents had greyhounds, and my brother and I used to go walking with them. The thrill of getting them ready for races or even watching them charging at you when you brought them hill running up at the five crossroads by Punchestown. On my mam’s side it was the horse racing. My grandad James worked a fence in Naas and Punchestown Racecourse and when he passed away the family kept the tradition going. We use to go out and sit by the fence. I can also remember back to the days when I first started playing GAA. The old GAA was down the Dublin Road but any of the underage teams use to train in a field on FIshery Lane. It's crazy to think that back then in a field with so many underage running around pucking or kicking a ball was where my sports started and so many friendships were made. Even back to the indoor hurling in Naas that John Holmes always had set up. A small hall where lads use to love bashing off each other and baiting a small spongy sliothar around. Some lads got more satisfaction trying to aim for the sliding door into the bar and hit a glass than to try and score in the goal.

GREATEST SPORTING MEMORY? 

Obviously two Christy Ring Cup wins are great memories. I wasn’t part of the 2014 team that won but I can still remember studying out my back garden for the Leaving Cert and listening to it on the radio, it was fantastic.

Then to be a part of it in 2018 was a very special moment.

A great footballing memory would bring me back to 2000 when Kildare last won Leinster. It took two games for Kildare to beat Dublin, when we would eventually beat them by five points. A lot of guys I looked up to played then, Doyle, Fenin, Earley, Brennan and Bryan Murphy who I would later go on to be coached by.

WHO IS YOUR GREATEST HURLING INFLUENCE? 

From the club side of things as an underage player moving towards the senior teams I had so many people I could look up to. My two uncles (Jim and Mick Sheridan) were involved in Naas hurling for years and the likes of Morgan Lawlor, Eamon Denniffe, Mark Hennessey, Neil Swan and Richy Coyle. I might not have seen them play too often but the stories you hear growing up of them playing made you want to do even better every time you stepped on the field. I've only been involved with Kildare hurling at senior level for a couple of years. During this time I've learnt a great deal from players who have given a lot of their time to the Kildare jersey. Some of the older guys (they'll kill me for saying that) Paul Dermody, John Doran, Mark Moloney who have given so much to Kildare are people that I have and will always have a lot of admiration for. It was players like those, and there are so many more but they were the guys I spent most of my time playing with, who I could look at and learn from the whole time.

For me though my biggest influence on my hurling career was someone I never met. My grandad (James Sheridan) would have had huge involvement in Naas GAA hurling for many years. Hurling was a real love for him. From fixing hurls or down pucking balls or training the lads he just loved hurling. People always tell me how they new him around the town, always carrying a hurl or trying to get new people down to have a go or even singing songs down in the GAA on weekends or parties. It's all those stories that make you really want to do someone proud. For someone I've never talked to he's no doubt been a huge influence on my career.

PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENTS? 

For the club we were able to win Minor and U21 Hurling Championships and the U21 Football Championship. The proudest ones for me would have to be winning both U21 Championships. U21 is a special competition. It's the last age group that you play with all the teammates you started off with, so many years ago. It was a brilliant time on both occasions, and to be able to captain the hurlers was quite special.

With Kildare, I've had two extremely proud achievements. Playing a part of the Minor Football team to win a Leinster Championship back in 2013 is something that I'll never really forget. My first time on the big stage in Croke Park and my first time involved in a county set-up, it was fantastic to be able to taste victory. Obviously then this was an incredible achievement with the Kildare hurlers. To be a part of such a special team, to win Christy Ring, to do it in Croke Park it was a dream come true. I loved every minute of playing with that team this year ad to be able to captain the lads was very special. It's something that I'll cherish for a long, long time. A real proud day for everyone involved in Kildare hurling.

Representing Kildare is a huge honour. When you go training as a young lad it’s really everything you aspire to do. I’ve played with some brilliant lads and met some great people on the way.

BEST PLAYER YOU EVER CAME UP AGAINST? 

Back in Kildare training, I used to hate been sent in to the edge of the square. There was always one person there waiting, John Doran. You could always guarantee that you would have it tough in there. John was quick, tough and read the game so well that it was always a nightmare trying to get the upper hand on him.

Neil McManus is always a shrewd operator for Antrim. We’ve played them over the past couple of years between league and championship and the way he operates is top class.

I know he’s gone down under now in Australia but when he played in Kildare, Gerry Keegan had a real touch of class about him. It was all well and good when we both had the white Kildare jersey on but when it came back to club he was a man that was hard to stop. Pace, strength and accuracy, he was a top class player.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE THING ABOUT KILDARE? 

For me being involved so much in sports I see how great Kildare is in the amount of sports or clubs that showcase their talents.

When I say sports I don’t just meant the GAA. There’s golf clubs, smaller societies, dance classes and much, much more. It’s a true testament to Kildare as a county that it has so much to offer to everyone.