Collie O’Neill tips Jason Byrne to break record at Belfield
Veteran striker joins UCD for 2016 campaign to help with promotion push
Former Bohemians striker Jason Byrne has signed for UCD for the 2016 campaign. Photograph: Inpho
UCD manager Collie O’Neill believes Jason Byrne could achieve his dream of breaking Brendan Bradley’s League of Ireland goalscoring record in just one year of first division football, which the striker may well have to do, considering he’ll be 38 by the time the new campaign starts.
Byrne, who was officially unveiled ads a UCD player yesterday, makes no bones about the fact that he is determined to overhaul Bradley’s tally of 235 goals, which has stood since 1985 with the Dubliner observing that: “I only have one goal, to get as many goals as I can.”
He mentions the side getting promoted too but given that the chances of his returning to the top flight at 39 are pretty limited, it seems safe to say that the record is the primary reason he has decided to stick around for yet another season.
“Normally when I’m talking to players about signing they want to know about money or other things but with Jason absolutely he wanted to talk about was playing and that record,” says O’Neill. “He really wants to beat it.”
He needs 18, a tally that would have made him the division’s second top scorer behind Danny Furlong last season with five more than his new strike partner, Ryan Swan but O’Neill is confident that that sort of number is well within his capabilities.
“It’s a win win-win; I have absolutely no doubts that he can do,” says the manager. “And if we converted anything like the number of chances that we created last season then we would have easily won the division. When I look back on the games now I don’t know how many chances there are where I think to myself, ‘Jason Byrne would have scored that’.
“He says he was actually fitter than he’d ever been last season but didn’t get the game time that he’d hoped for but then they signed Ismahil Akinade and I’m sure that Jason had a lot to do with the improvement we saw in him over the course of the season; I’ll be looking for a bit of that from him here too because we have a lot of very talented young players.
“But it’s not just about Jason,” he says. “We’ve also brought in Brian Shortall and Cathal Brady (both 30) because we’ve needed a couple of lads to come in and show the others how to get things over the line and win games.
“Brian (who had several successful seasons at Belfield before shorter stints at St Patrick’s Athletic, Shelbourne and Athlone Town) basically takes no prisoners and there were times last year when we needed that sort of attitude at the back every bit as we did somebody with Jason’s sort of experience up front. Signing players like these was a major propriety last year but we ran out of time and it didn’t get done; I’m very pleased to have been able to bring them in this time.”