28 Nov 2021

Kildare's Róisín Byrne: no dancer but some footballer

Back after a year out through injury, Sarsfields' All Ireland winner on football, and much more

Kildare's Róisín Byrne: no dancer but some footballer

Róisín Byrne

In the distance you know instantly this is no ordinary athlete out for a bit of a mid-day jog.
The stride. The pace. The movement.
It all points to a serious athlete doing a serious work-out as she moves graciously along the paths and the roadways.
As she approaches, you wonder no longer.
Róisín Byrne.
Sarsfields. Kildare. Leinster. All Ireland winner. All Star nominee.
A Newbridge, Sarsfields and Kildare lady true and true.
And like the rest of us at the minute struggling to make out what is going on in the world of today.
“Hard to get your head around it all” she says, like most of the entire country presently with more time on her hands than she wants.
Róisín is a teacher at St Conleth and St Mary's Primary School, in Newbridge, a school she went to as a child starting out.
And now having secured a degree in psychology in Maynooth and a Masters in Primary School teaching she is back where it all began, only this time standing at the top of the classroom.
One of the finest and most exciting footballers to don the white of Kildare Róisín began playing football at a very young age.
“My mam, Fiona, brought me to dancing class when I was about four but I (and she) soon realised that dancing was not for me; little or no co-ordination.”
So it was off to Sarsfields and while there were no Ladies football, as such, at that time, Róisín mucked in with the young lads and soon realised that this was for her, even before the club formed a section for girls to show their skills on the football field.
That girls section eventually arrived and it did not take too long before they began making their own success.
Róisín is daughter of Fiona and Seamus 'Chilly' Byrne (as good a wing back that was around in his day, bar none) and sister of Cian and Sean.
Sarsfields had an unbelievable underage team from very young all the way up to minor, Róisín told the Leinster Leader last week.
“I was born in '94 and that age group, from under 12 up, I think we won every competition that we could, except at U16, so the only regret that team would have had was the fact that we did not win at that particular age level; so we kind of grew up with that winning mentality, which was great.
“However, you soon got into a kind of a bubble and you start believing that you can't be beaten and while you don't realise it at the time, that is not the attitude to have.
“You then move on into senior ranks and county teams and suddenly you start to see there is another side to this game, and that is losing.
“It was great in a way, we came up with such a brilliant team at underage but I would be very competitive, but I wasn't very good at losing either, and that did not help when winning did not continue to be the norm, as I did not have that experience too often of actually losing games, and I have to say I found that difficult integrating into that, especially when coming into an inter-county set-up.”
However Róisín soon learned that in football, just like in life in general, there are always two sides to a coin, two sides to playing sport, two sides to playing football and she adapted and adapted well, to say the least.
Success at intermediate and senior level with her club in 2014 and 2015, when Róisín captained both teams, seemed a natural progression and that was quickly followed with success in the white of Kildare.
When the Sarsfields star burst on to the county scene Kildare were playing Division 1 League and her first game was against Dublin, which no doubt was a fairly quick eye opener.
That was 2012 or so and the following year The Lilies were relegated to Division 2, where they performed, as Róisín says “well.”
Success at county was just around the corner however and a Leinster title came their way in 2015 when they defeated Offaly and made it all the way to the All Ireland final.
“We had gotten a somewhat easy run through the Leinster Championship in 2015; we ended up playing just Offaly and Wexford in the whole championship, it was a kind of flawed set-up; we played Wexford in a Leinster semi final and Offaly in the Leinster final; and then Wexford again in an All Ireland quarter final and Offaly again in the semi final and while these two teams have progressed a lot since then — they are hard sides to defeat now — but at that time they were only finding their feet so we were not really challenged the way we should have been and the way we needed to be for more competitive opposition.
“Then we came up against an unbelievable team in Waterford in the All Ireland final and they just blew us out of the water; we simply did not have a challenge like that for the entire year, even allowing for the fact that Waterford were one super time.”
Kildare were not deterred and with that old adage that, you have to lose one before you win one, firmly part of their mantra they set out again on a new campaign, with a new manager in Alan Barry, and despite losing the previous season, the team had a determination to put it right in 2016.
Making it to the Leinster final saw the confidence grow and defeating Wexford once again they now had their eyes firmly set on making the previous season's wrongs right this time around.
Clare was a county, as Róisín explains, they had met on so many occasions, Clare.
“Any time we got out of Leinster it always seemed to be Clare we met and in fact we played them so often I became very friendly with a lot of their girls at that time.”
That year, 2016, was something special, and you could actually feel the excitement in the primary school teacher's voice as she looked back on a great occasion.
Róisín had played under a variety of managers even up to that point. Managers that included Joe Donoghue, John Divilly, Stephen Maxwell, Mark Murnaghan, Morgan O'Callaghan and of course Alan Barry, the Sarsfields man calling the shots when The Lilies captured the All Ireland title in2016.
“That was some year; I'd say if we had played Clare ten times that year we would have won five and they would have won five we were so evenly matched, and in the end to beat them by a point was something very, very special as they would have been our greatest rivals it would always have been Clare whenever we got out of Leinster it was always Clare we came up against.”
Apart from the enjoyment of playing inter-county football Róisín was at pains to point out the friendships made between various counties from throughout the entire country are very special.
“I made, and continue to make, great friends especially through college football, two of my best friends would be from Donegal and Monaghan; inter-provincial was another avenue where you meet a lot of girls and become friends, friendships that will last and last.”
Kildare at present are operating in Division 3 of the League under manage Daniel Moynihan, and to say it has been a bitter sweet season is a bit of an understatement as Róisín explains.
“We have enjoyed an incredible league to date and for the first time ever have gone through the entire league undefeated, winning all our games and booking a place in the final.
“Unfortunately, and understandably with the situation, we now find ourselves in, all leagues have been stopped and will not be recommencing and that was a bitter pill to swallow.
“We knew it was coming but then when we eventually got the text to say the League was gone it was very disheartening especially after all the work we put in this year.
“The League was a huge deal for us; we wanted to get out of Division 3 and this was our chance. Remember we were unbeaten for the entire league, the first time we have gone through a full league unbeaten and then to get that message.”
As Roisin points out, in the men's Allianz Football League, the top two teams are promoted but the Lidl Ladies do not work on the same format. In the Ladies the top two teams play in the final and the winner is promoted, so with all games now gone by the wayside and no final, there can be no promotion so we will be in Division 3 again next year; very, very disappointing.”
And what about the championship now?
“Well I'm, assuming there will be championship of some sort, all the training we are doing on our own would be very hard to do if we were contemplating not playing championship but I'm sure there will be championship but we just don't know what it is going to look like at this stage.”
Róisín has just returned this season (2020) after missing out all of last year due to an injury; an injury that had been troubling her for a few years.
She was appointed Kildare captain in 2018 but at the back of her mind was an ongoing shoulder injury.
“I basically kept dislocating it, an injury I initially picked up back in 2015, it kept getting worse and then the year with Alan (Barry) when we won the All Ireland I dislocated it twice in the space of two weeks, in the quarter final against Leitrim and again in the semi final against Sligo, but luckily enough it just popped out and popped back into place and I was able to play on, but then in 2018 I dislocated in a league game against Roscommon and I met a surgeon after that and he said just re-hab it and we will see how you get on.
“However when I returned and playing in a challenge game with Sarsfields against Athy, I went up for a throw-ball, the tips of my fingers touched the ball but it dislocated the shoulder pretty bad and I couldn't get it back in; so I went to hospital, got it back in but at that point was told I needed surgery.
“So that was it for me then; I had to take time out and get the surgery.”
During the previous few years Róisín was getting itchy feet to do a bit of summer travelling but each year Kildare did reasonably well or indeed struggled (“when I did not want to walk away and let anyone down”) but decided that before she would have the surgery she would t travel for a while.
“So off I went to Vietnam, Indonesia and Singapore; tried to go to Cuba but due o visa problems we were not allowed, and so we went to Mexico.”
Róisín went on the initial trip with her boy friend Liam McGovern (of Athy GAA fame) but being the dedicated player he is, Liam returned home for the SFC while she headed off to Mexico with some of her fellow lady players.
So how did the Sarsfields v Athy scenario work out in the Byrne household.
“A few years ago when I first went out with Liam, Sarsfields and Athy met in the county final but luckily for me Sarsfields won; unluckily for Liam Athy lost.”
So still training away, individually, hoping county and club scene will resume in the not too distant future.
“Yes, we did a very interesting thing last week, a girl we used to play football with, Ashling Quinn from Eadestown, set up an on-line gym. We split into two groups and at 8.30 logged-on and did a hit session with an on-line instructor but you could see all the girls on the screen and everyone doing it together. Similar to what you would be doing on your own in a hit-session but seeing all the other girls you are pushing yourself a little bit harder it is easier to motivate yourself when you see all the others doing the same.
“Things like that make things a lot easier, hopefully we can continue with that once or twice a week.
“I realise they can't put a time on when we will be able to return to football action but it would be great if they could. However, football is not the most important thing in the world; we can train away but staying safe and well is the no. 1 objective at the moment for all of us.”
Can't say if Róisín's dancing has improved over the years, but she has certainly turned into one  hell of a footballer!

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