Late last year, Irishman Ciaran Sheehan was selected from apparent obscurity to make his debut for Carlton in round 20.
While his selection came as a surprise to some, Sheehan’s VFL form for the Northern Blues meant his inclusion was a warranted one: his subsequent four accomplished performances for Carlton to close out the season was testament to that.
Now, while Sheehan has had an interrupted start to his 2015 campaign, his fellow countryman and namesake will make his debut in the old, dark navy blue.
Ciaran Byrne was tonight selected to play his first game for Carlton against Essendon on Saturday afternoon at the MCG.
Twenty-year old Byrne – who made his first appearance on the ‘G last Saturday as it were – had his first taste for Aussie Rules just last year, where he fronted up for the Northern Blues.
Among other things, the Blues have been lamented for their lack of run in their first two rounds of the season: Byrne has it in spades.
Starting out as a key forward, Byrne hit the ground running in the AFL Victoria Development League with three goals in his first game: a performance which saw him promoted to the VFL the next week.
Byrne continued to improve by the game: however, it was a positional change mid-season which allowed the Irishman to show his true capabilities.
As Matthew Watson was groomed from key defender to key forward, Byrne went the other way, making a home for himself down back.
Like Sheehan and Zach Tuohy before him, Byrne showed not only that he wasn’t scared to take the game on: he’s got a blatant disregard for leaving anything to interpretation.
Despite appearing to be the size of a key position player (if not a little undersized), Byrne’s main asset is his turn of speed and his attacking mindset.
An interrupted start to the season didn’t stop Byrne, who played 14 games for the Northern Blues in 2014: a platform which allowed him to attack the pre-season full of confidence.
Having featured in Carlton’s NAB Challenge campaign, Byrne returned to the VFL before he was a travelling emergency for the Blues in last week’s loss to West Coast.
However, Byrne has since gone one better, with a debut against one of Carlton’s biggest rivals at a time where the Blues are desperately looking for positives.
At a time when Carlton’s recruiting department has never had more questions asked of it, the Irish experiment has proven to be nothing less than a shining light.
With Sheehan and particularly Tuohy already having proven their worth, Byrne now has the chance to make a name for himself: an opportunity he is sure to take in his stride.