Shaun claims McCathie helps every gameSaturday, 2nd Jan 2016
"I feel that we get that extra lift when we are playing towards the Norrie McCathie Stand end. The fans behind the goals cheer you on right to the end
Fife Derbies have mixed memories for Shaun Byrne but it was on 2nd January 2013 that he made his starting debut for Dunfermline in the 1-0 win over Raith Rovers. Shaun had warmed the bench no less than 18 times the previous season without ever making an appearance. He did later find out that Jim McIntyre had his name in the starting eleven that fateful foggy December day when referee Bobby Madden postponed the match at 1.30pm due to fog. That was in 2011 when the Pars were in the midst of a winless run of ten games and it was over a year before Jim Jefferies handed him his debut.
Shaun has started all three of the Pars games against Cowdenbeath this season, scoring twice in the 5-1 win in the League Cup tie on 1st August. He knows the significance of the New Year derby and just how big a game Saturday is for both clubs. He told the media:-
"It is a derby and always the games you look forward to playing but it is just three points at the end of the day. We want to continue our run and just keep it going. Cowdenbeath are on a good run just now. They beat Ayr on Tuesday night so they have obviously doing well and picked up a lot since we played them at the start of the season. Greg Spence scores a lot of goals wherever he plays and we will need to keep an eye on him."
This is the first time Cowdenbeath have been first foots at East End Park since 1984. That match was abandoned so the last time Dunfermline defeated Cowdenbeath at home in a New Years Day derby was actually a 3-1 win in 1955. Football is much discussed at this time of year and 22 year old Shaun recognises the local sensitivities:-
"I am a Fifer and made my debut in a Fife Derby as well, it was a big game but every Fife Derby is a big game and this is one that you look forward to at the start of the season when you see the fixtures.
"They will want to come here and win as well. It is bragging rights as well but at the end of the day you only get three points."
The derby match will be a commemorative match for Norrie McCathie who died 20 years ago on 8th January 1996. Shaun continued:-
"It is going to be a massive occasion and I think there will be a few extra fans. We have had great support this season but we can look forward to the occasion and hopefully we can get the win as well for them."
Norrie McCathie was the club captain and made 576 appearances for Dunfermline between 1981 and 1996 and Shaun who came through the youth system at the club explained he pick up things about him all the time and recognises that the home stand is well named in his memory:-
"I feel that we get that extra lift when we are playing towards the Norrie McCathie Stand end. The fans behind the goals cheer you on right to the end and when it is a really tight game the fans behind the goals give you that extra wee boost. These fans can be a big factor in the game."
Dunfermline go into the new year six points clear at the top of League One but Shaun warns that there is a long way to go yet:-
"We are doing well this season and on a good unbeaten run but we are only half way and ages yet to go in this league. Every game is difficult, there are no easy games and we just have to approach it the way we have been. It doesn't matter how we win as long as we win at the end of the day."
There is always pressure on you when you are at the top acknowledged Shaun:-
"Teams are always chasing you but teams always lift their game when they are playing against Dunfermline anyway. There is pressure there but you shouldn't be playing football if you cannot deal with pressure. I would rather be in our position than anybody else's just now. We just have to keep going and see what happens."
Shaun has made over 100 appearances for Athletic, considerable given his 22 years. He has started 17 of the 26 matches this season but constantly faces stiff competition for a starting place:-
"The competition in the middle of the park is the strongest just now. All of us think that we should be playing and there are only two that can play at the end of the day. You just have to be ready whenever you are asked to play and when you are in there you just have to do the business as well.
"You know that if you have a poor game there is going to be somebody up there who is going to take your position. That is what you want at the end of the day, there is no point if you are turning up knowing that you are playing. You want competition everywhere on the park and I think we have got that.
"Getting a win is the most important thing and you want to play every game. I am no different to anybody else."
All supporters to arrive early and be seated, no later than 2.55pm so that they can participate in our tribute to Norrie, before the game commences.
The DAFC players will wear specially commissioned one off blue and red quarter strip, and the first team jerseys will be numbered 1 to 11 as normal on the day.
Both teams, match officials and (11 home mascots) will walk from the tunnel area to the centre line at 2.55pm. For this match only, instead of "Into the Valley," Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" will be played as the players walk to the centre circle, as this was Norrie's favourite song. All of the players, match officials and mascots will then line up on the centre circle facing the Norrie Stand so that they can see the fantastic card display that is planned in the Norrie Stand.
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