In many ways 2013 was a year to forget for Declan Byrne. It started out promisingly with the Mochtas man battling his way onto the panel for the O’Byrne Cup. It should have been the beginning of a great run in the intercounty team.
Yet, as he freely admits, he felt he wasn’t up for it and pulled out of the squad before that year’s national league campaign opened. The hunger and drive wasn’t there.
Add to that a less then stellar club season, which saw his Louth village club dumped out of the intermediate championship at the group stages and a flirtation with relegation from division two of the football league, and it becomes clear that Byrne lacked direction somewhat.
The one standout of 2013 was the success of his brother Ciaran, who made his mark on the Louth team before signing a professional contract with Carlton in the AFL.
But after Sunday’s victory over Westmeath, in which he hit two brilliant points, something of the old Byrne had returned. The life was back in the eyes. 2014 might just carve out a better path for the Mochtas man.
“I’m delighted to be back”, he beamed, “I’ve worked hard over the last few months and I’ll be trying to get my starting place now.
“Last year I just didn’t feel like I had the hunger for it and I decided to step away from it. But I’m back in now and I’m hoping to get my place.”
Certainly his two points will do much to raise his profile and catch the eye of Aidan O’Rourke, yet he knows that he has more to do, and that those scores were always in him - “It’s about time. I’ve been threatening to do that for a while now” - he smiled.
The all important league season begins in three weeks time and Byrne is keen to keep at it in training now that there are no further competitive fixtures in the meantime.
“The (training) programme is quite heavy, there’s a lot of heavy running and gym work and there’s not that much room for recovery, but Mike (McGurn) and the boys know what they are doing, so I’m sure we’ll be in tip top shape come the first round of the league.”
Training for three weeks is all well and good, but having not progressed to the semi final, does he think that not having a competitive fixture is a disadvantage?
“I don’t think it will be a disadvantage. We’ll go away now and iron out any mistakes that we made and hopefully have a good few hard training sessions and get ourselves ready for Armagh.
“I’m sure Aidan and the boys will be sitting down now and looking at DVDs and telling us what we did right and what we did wrong. But Armagh is our goal in the first round of the league and it’s here in Drogheda so we’ll be pushing to win that one.”
The pitch at Drogheda, of course, comes in for a lot of scrutiny at this time of year, it’ll be the same during the league according to Byrne.
“I don’t think conditions are going to be too dissimilar, especially with the winters we get. So I suppose with a heavy pitch the work we did last year will stand to us,” finished the Mochtas man.