Emma Byrne appointed Senior Women's Team captain
Arsenal goalkeeper Emma Byrne has been appointed by manager Sue Ronan as captain of the Republic of Ireland Senior Women's Team. She succeeds her Arsenal team-mate Ciara Grant who recently retired from international football after winning a record 105 caps.
With 93 senior international appearances, Byrne is by far the most experienced player available to Ronan and was vice-captain to Grant but the manager admitted it was way the goalkeeper handled the captain's role during last December's two game tour to America that convinced her to hand the 33-year-old the armband permanently.
"It was no-brainer after seeing how she handled the role in America," said Ronan. "She is a great leader on the pitch and is very good off the pitch especially in and around the group where she goes out of her way to help new players integrate into the squad. She is an excellent role model for the younger players because of her attitude, her passion and her achievements for both club and country."
Byrne flew out with the Senior Women's Squad this afternoon to Cyprus where the side will play four games over the next ten days in the Cyprus Women's Cup. They will face Northern Ireland on Wednesday, South Korea on Friday and South Africa next Monday before facing a final game on Wednesday week to decide their finishing position in the 12 team tournament.
She admitted that she is relishing the captain's role although it is tinged with regret because it has come about as a result of the retirement of her close friend and Arsenal team-mate Ciara Grant.
"I was upset when Ciara told me she was retiring from international football because she's been my room-mate for the past 10 or 12 years. I'll miss her. I tried to talk her out of it but she made her decision," said Byrne.
"I was delighted when Sue told me I was going to be captain. It is a huge honour as far as I am concerned. I was vice-captain to Ciara and stood in when she wasn't playing, which wasn't very often. I enjoyed doing it in America and it was nice time to do because it they were friendlies and not competitive games. I am sure it will be a lot different when the competitive games come around."
The Senior Women's Team is now in a transitional phase as it prepares for the start of the FIFA Women's World Cup qualifiers in September and the 22-strong squad includes six uncapped players. Indeed, Byrne is one of only six players in the squad who have won 20 or more caps but she is looking forward to helping to integrate the new players into the senior squad.
"Some of them are so young they make me feel very old but I hope to help them settle into the senior team and give them leadership and whatever else is required," said Byrne who added that she is really looking forward to the ten days in Cyprus.
"We usually go to the Algarve Cup at this stage of the year so it's nice to have got invited to this tournament. It is a great opportunity to get the squad together and I'm looking forward to the Northern Ireland match because I haven't played against them in years."
The squad will train twice tomorrow ahead of their opening game on Wednesday against Northern Ireland with Deirdre Doherty (IT Sligo) and Rachel Graham (Raheny United) the only changes to Ronan's original squad following the withdrawal through injury of Fiona O'Sullivan (knee) and Julie Ann Russell (quad)
The travelling squad is:
Emma Byrne (Arsenal), Eve Badana (Drexel College), yvonne Tracy (Arsenal), Megan Campbell (Raheny United), Grace Murray (Peamount United), Louise Quinn (Eskilstuna United), Jessica Gleeson (Wexford Youths), Seana Cooke (Raheny United), Meabh de Burca (Amazon Grimstad FK), Diane Caldwell (Alvadsnes), Ciara Grant (Raheny United), Karen Duggan (Peamount United), Emma Hansberry (Castlebar Celtic), Rachel Graham (Raheny United), Aine O'Gorman (Peamount United), Shannon Smyth (Amazon Grimstad FK), Deirdre Doherty (IT Sligo), Ruesha Littlejohn (Glasgow City), Noelle Murray (Raheny United), Sara Lawlor (Peamount United), Stephanie Roche (Peamount United), Denise O'Sullivan (Cork Women's FC).
Cyprus Women's Cup Group C
Wednesday, March 6: Northern Ireland v Republic of Ireland, Dasaki Achnas Stadium, Larnaca, 3.30pm (Irish time)
Friday, March 8: Republic of Ireland v South Africa, Tasos Marko Stadium, Paralimni, 12.30pm (Irish time)
Monday, March 11: South Korea v Republic of Ireland, Tasos Marko, Paralimni, 3.30pm (Irish time)
Wednesday, March 13: Finals Day, Details TBC.