Dunfermline youngster Shaun Byrne insists he won’t take his eye off the ball tonight – despite the prospect of a glamour Scottish Cup tie with Rangers and talk of a possible Scotland Under-21 call-up.
National Under-21 coach Billy Stark ran the rule over the Pars midfielder as he scored in the recent 3-0 victory over Airdrie after a recommendation by East End Park assistant Neil McCann and has promised to keep an eye on the 20-year-old.
Byrne knows a high-profile cup encounter with Rangers would be the perfect arena to help press his case for an international cap, while a fifth-round clash at Ibrox would also help boost the finances of the cash-strapped Fife club. But the Kirkcaldy-born playmaker, who captained the club to the SFA Youth Cup final against Celtic last season, insists no-one will be looking beyond this evening’s replay at home to Ayr United as both clubs battle it out for a money-spinning trip to Govan in February.
He said: “It’s a big incentive for both clubs, but I don’t think either of us will be thinking about the Rangers game until we’ve, hopefully, got through against Ayr. It would help the club financially as well, so it’s a good boost, but we’ve got to concentrate on the Ayr game first. That’s going to be a tough game.
“It’s great to know Billy Stark’s been keeping an eye on me and he’s watched me, but I’ve just got to keep playing and not be distracted by that. If something happened, it would be great, obviously, but I’ve just got to concentrate on playing well for Dunfermline, and then maybe something will happen. I didn’t know he had watched the Airdrie game, I only found out last week, but that was a good one for him to watch. I scored a goal that day and won a penalty, and I played quite well.
“But I won’t know if he’s watching any games in the future, I just want to keep playing my normal game and then if something happens that will be great.”
Byrne had a chance to snatch victory at Somerset Park on Saturday but admitted he took himself down a blind alley instead of shooting with a late chance. With most agreeing the eventual 1-1 stalemate was a fair result, Byrne is hopeful the Fifers can hit top form tonight to earn that meeting with Rangers.
He added: “Both teams will go out to attack to win the game. Hopefully we can get the first goal again and then build on that, but Ayr created a few good chances at the weekend so it will be difficult. But if we play the way we can then we’ve got a great chance of going through.”
Manager Jim Jefferies, meanwhile, reckons Saturday’s cup tie showed just how close the teams are, despite Dunfermline’s 5-1 victory in the league back in September. He said: “We had a big advantage after the scoreline when we played them in the league but I have always said that Ayr played well that day and I knew Saturday would be a very tight game because Premier League teams find it very tough down there. It won’t make it any easier this time because we’re at home. We’ll have to go and play well but, if we play as well as we can, it will take a good performance to beat us.”
Meanwhile, Ayr manager Mark Roberts is looking for his men to concentrate only on Dunfermline and not Rangers. “We have a chance of meeting Rangers in the next round which would be great for everyone and the club but all it is, is a chance. There is no point in getting excited about it and forgetting to do what we have to do to turn the chance into reality.
“It is an incentive but we already have a big task ahead in beating Dunfermline without losing concentration by thinking on what might be. After being a goal down to them on Saturday, I am pleased we have a second bite of the cherry. If we play to our potential we have a chance of progressing and if we do that then we can get excited about the next round.”
Rangers youngster Kyle McAusland, who is on loan at Somerset Park, will not be allowed to play in the Scottish Cup by the Ibrox side. Martyn Campbell is the only absentee due to a foot problem.