Like in the famous poem Des Byrne has taken the road less travelled in life. Now back at St Pat's for the time being his career has come full circle. When most fellas his age were fumbling with girls at sweaty suburban discos he was busy winning the U-16 Euro Championship alongside Liam Miller, John O'Shea and Andy Reid under the watchful eye of Brian Kerr. He gained a place in Kerr's heart at this time with a remarkable show of heroism. Kerr:
“Early in the tournament I noticed Dessie limping but he refused to call in sick for fear of missing a game. He was available to us all the way through to the final, only after it was over did he tell us that he had a broken toe”.
At this time Byrne was going through that nervous stage in a player's life when a pro-contract is there to be won. Stockport was his home and progress was swift. Byrne made two first team appearances but the fates conspired against him and he was sent home under a cloud following an off the field incident. Pat Dolan and Liam Buckley recognised the talent in Byrne and they gave him a chance at St Pat's. Byrne's performances at Pat's that year were sensational and he maintained his place in the Irish underage set up.
It was here that he cemented his reputation for having one of the best left pegs in the business when he put in a man of the match performance for the Irish Under 18s against France. A performance that caught the eye of Wimbledon, who were so impressed they immediately made an offer to the Saints for his services. This represented the second chance that many players never get. Byrne packed his backs and joined Kenny Cunningham at the Dons but it was here at Wimbledon that Byrne suffered his darkest hour.
Out on a night out with Jody Morris and John Terry an incident with a Nightclub doorman occurred leaving the three players facing a date in court. The support Byrne received was testament to his character. Pat Dolan:
“He is not in the same money bracket and he recognises now he should not have been out with those lads at the time and needs to concentrate on his football. If he does he can be special. Des Byrne could be the biggest victim of this now because his club, Wimbledon, are not in the same financial situation that Chelsea are in. They will look at Des' behaviour and there will be repercussions.”
His Wimbledon teammate Kenny Cunningham came out in his defence,
“There's more to Dessie than meets the eye. Anyone who speaks to him can't help but like him, he has a heart of gold and he's a great character”.
Byrne is keen to put the past firmly in its place, behind him.
“Everyone knows I was in court, it was all over the Telly and the papers but what people don't know is that I was cleared of all wrong doing and the original charges were thrown out”.
A mixture of the fallout of the case and injuries saw Des last only a year and a half at the Dons. Roddy Collins had just swept into power at Carlisle and was busy on an Irish recruitment drive that saw Richie Foran, Brian Shelly, Will McDonagh and Trevor Molloy join the Cumbrian outfit. Des soon joined and took part in the now legendary Rod Squad documentary series on RTE highlighting the difficulties of lower league football in England, difficulties that players in the eircom League can empathise with only too well.
Carlisle provided a good chance for Byrne to put the past behind him but again he suffered greatly from injuries and at a club like Carlisle where debt is an everyday problem an injured player is an expendable one. Des soon found himself without a club again with Roddy Collins' soon following him after poor results, the great Carlisle Irish plantation looks set to end in tears for Carlisle with a