Athlone man makes mark in Australia
By Tríona Doherty
A talented young Athlone man has found himself in demand in his adopted home in Australia.
Twenty-two-year-old Jack Byrne, from Annagh, Ballykeeran has been making waves at his local Rugby League club near Brisbane, Australia through his rugby and musical talents, so much so that the club are pulling out all the stops to entice him to stay on for longer.
Director of coaching at Gatton Hawks RLFC, Lee Wharton, contacted the Advertiser to ensure that people in Jack’s native area know how highly they think of the Ballykeeran lad, who is currently working on a farm in Gatton, Queensland.
“We thought it important that Jack’s family and friends find out how much we think of him and about the valuable contribution that he has made to the town and the Gatton Hawks,” wrote Mr Wharton.
“Jack started playing right wing in our C Grade team and has now worked his way up into the A Grade squad and hopefully will make his debut in a week or two. Once he makes his debut he will join our roster of professional players.”
Mr Wharton added that Jack has made a positive impact on the club and wider community of Gatton.
“Apart from being a wonderful bloke, and a talented footballer, he has also taken it upon himself to teach the local boys a bit about Gaelic Football and other aspects of Irish culture.”
Jack has also landed a regular spot playing guitar and singing in the clubhouse on Sunday nights. However, in spite of the club offering Jack better jobs and accommodation to entice him to stay longer in the town, he intends to return home in August to complete a degree in architecture in Waterford IT.
A native of Annagh, Ballykeeran, Jack attended primary school in Tubberclair and secondary school in Athlone Community College. He played Gaelic football for Tubberclair GAA and underage rugby with Buccaneers.
Jack’s mother Sadie Byrne (née Henshaw) says rugby is in Jack’s blood.
“His first cousin Robert Henshaw plays for Ireland u19s, and his cousins Conor Fitzgibbon and Billy Henshaw have played for Connaught. They want to hang on to him in Gatton but he has his mind set on coming home and continuing his studies,” says Sadie.
Jack’s musical prowess - he plays the guitar, button accordian, and drums - also comes as no surprise as his father Jim Byrne, an Army lieutenant colonel, is a talented musician, while Sadie also comes from a musical family. However in spite of the demand for his talents in Australia, Sadie is looking forward to having her son back in the country.
“He’s a real character, very creative. We are looking forward to seeing him in August, and in the long term he is hoping to settle in Ireland,” adds Sadie.
But not if president of Gatton Hawks RLFC, Toby Toohill, has anything to do with it, saying; “If we are not too careful he’ll end up president of the club in a month and mayor of the town before the season is over!”