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EXCLUSIVE: Covid, fostering, autism and football – Dundee midfielder Shaun Byrne opens up on difficult 10 days with the virus

Dundee midfielder Shaun Byrne.
Dundee midfielder Shaun Byrne.

Sunday was a bittersweet day for Dundee midfielder Shaun Byrne.

He was part of a Dark Blues side that were very much second best at Celtic Park, coming out on the wrong end of the 6-0 scoreline.

It was, though, also his return to the pitch after being “floored” by Covid-19.

Byrne isn’t the first footballer to suffer from the virus with team-mates Jason Cummings, Charlie Adam and Lee Ashcroft all coming down with it over the past year.

What made Byrne’s situation all the more difficult was the effect it had on his family.

The 28-year-old and his girlfriend Katy have looked after Lisa-Marie, a 15-year-old with autism, for a number of years now.

They have recently been approved as foster carers after Lisa-Marie first lived with Katy’s parents from the age of six following a difficult start to life.

And Byrne is happy to have things more normal for his “wee best pal”, as he describes her.

“Myself and my girlfriend look after a girl with autism so that was really difficult when self-isolating,” he revealed.

“She had to stay in for 10 days as well and she didn’t understand what was going on. That was hard.

“Fair play to my missus for looking after her while I was lying in bed.

“We always try to keep her active and take her on walks or to the trampoline place and things like that but we obviously couldn’t do that for 10 days.

“Lisa-Marie really struggled with the situation, not knowing why she had to stay in.

“Thankfully, we’re all healthy now.”

‘It all hit me at once’

Despite only returning to training in the days leading up to the trip to Celtic Park, Byrne ended up completing the 90 minutes on Sunday.

Though he was surprised to play the entire match, the midfielder is glad to be back out on the pitch after a very difficult 10 days.

“It was really tough,” he said.

“I was properly floored from the Saturday to the Wednesday.

“It was scary. To start with I didn’t feel unwell at all.

“I tested positive on the Friday and then it hit me on the Saturday.

“All the symptoms just hit me at once.

“I came back to training last Monday and was struggling with my breathing.

“So I’m glad to get 90 minutes on Sunday, though it wasn’t easy.

“I didn’t expect to get through the full 90 but it will have done me good.”

‘Lesson for everybody’

That’s also the task for Byrne’s team-mates as they look to get over the weekend thumping as quickly as possible.

Their first chance of doing just that comes on Saturday at home to Motherwell in the League Cup.

Shaun Byrne closes down Callum McGregor.

At stake is a place in the Premier Sports Cup quarter-final – a stage the club have only reached once in the past decade.

“It will be good for us to get a game as soon as possible so we can try to rectify what went wrong on Sunday,” Byrne said.

“We’ve said as a group we want to do better in the cups. There’s no reason we can’t do that so, hopefully, we can get past Motherwell.

“We’ll need to be better than we were on Sunday. Some of the goals we gave away were very poor.

Some of the times we lost the ball we would probably have got away with in the Championship.

“But coming up a level, especially against Celtic, one bad pass and the ball is in the back of your net.

“It is a lesson for everybody.”


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