Byrne, Seán (1955–2003), soccer player, was born 5 February 1955 in Dublin, son of Thomas 'Dessie' Byrne, a labourer and League of Ireland footballer, of St Teresa's Gardens, Dolphin's Barn, Dublin, and his wife Annie (née Fields). Playing initially with the hugely successful Rangers AFC schoolboy team, Seán had a short spell with Home Farm before beginning his senior career in 1973 with his local Inchicore team, St Patrick's Athletic, for whom he became a regular over five seasons (1973/4 to 1977/8), usually playing alongside Leo Flanagan in midfield. In the 1974 FAI Cup final (the first to be televised in colour on RTÉ), Byrne scored the only goal for St Patrick's in a 1–3 defeat to Finn Harps. It was the club's first FAI Cup appearance since his father scored the losing own goal in a 0–1 defeat to Drumcondra in 1954, St Patrick's first appearance in the final. Wags had anointed Dessie 'own-goal Byrne' – a taunt that opposition fans later deployed against Seán, despite his record of appearing in three finals, twice victoriously for Dundalk. The 1974 cup final defeat, and St Patrick's second-place league finish behind Finn Harps in the 1973/4 season, marked the high point of Byrne's time in Richmond Park, and he was voted Irish sportswriters' player of the month in September 1974.
Byrne demonstrated huge versatility from the outset of his career; although he was primarily a midfielder, his strong positional sense and tough tackling meant he often covered at left and right back, and could also play as a striker. Byrne felt St Patrick's had reached the full extent of their potential by the 1977/8 season, and, after falling out with the manager, Barry Bridges, requested a move in February 1978. Immediately signed by Dundalk United, Byrne was followed to Dundalk in September 1978 by Leo Flanagan, with whom he formed an enduring and successful partnership. Byrne's talent, resilience, and fierce competitiveness saw him continue to serve adeptly as defender, winger or striker, as injury or tactical necessity required. His versatility was integral to the success Dundalk enjoyed during their golden age under Jim McLaughlin's management in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Playing on Dundalk's League of Ireland championship and FAI Cup double-winning team of 1978/9, Byrne became a permanent fixture in a hard-tackling and free-scoring midfield; his incisive passing and crossing made many goals for teammates, and he was well capable of converting goal chances himself. Flanagan, Byrne and Mick Lawlor regularly dominated midfield encounters in a tight and competitive league: with eight games remaining, any of the top four teams could still clinch the title. Byrne scored in the title-clinching 3–0 victory away to Cork Celtic (in their last League of Ireland game). He also scored in the FAI Cup semi-final 2–1 victory over Cork Alberts (1 April 1979), and, in his second appearance in an FAI Cup final, scored in a 2–0 victory over Waterford (22 April 1979). His habit of scoring vital goals in crucial games saw him named the Irish sportswriters' player of the month for April 1979. In total, Byrne netted 9 goals (7 league and 2 FAI Cup), making 21 league starting appearances (as well as 6 as a sub) and starting in all four FAI Cup games. He scored three goals during the 1979/80 season, as Dundalk finished second in the league to Limerick, and he played in the 2–1 victory over Bohemians at Oriel Park (13 September 1979) that clinched the President's Cup. In the 1980/81 season, Byrne played in the 2–0 victory over Sligo Rovers in the FAI Cup final (26 April 1981), and scored 4 league and 2 league cup goals, as Dundalk again finished runners-up in the league.
During these years Dundalk participated in the European Cup, UEFA Cup, and European Cup Winners' Cup, generally performing well. In 1979 they beat Linfield and Hibernians of Malta in European Cup ties before narrowly losing 2–3 on aggregate to Glasgow Celtic; Byrne started in all six matches. Probably their best performance in Europe was against Tottenham Hotspur in the second round of the European Cup Winners' Cup in autumn 1981. Byrne played in a famous 1–1 home draw (21 October 1981), and a 0–1 away-leg defeat in which he and Flanagan managed to close down leading international players such as Glen Hoddle and Osvaldo Ardiles. Byrne was also instrumental in Dundalk's league championship in 1981/2, scoring 9 goals (7 league and 2 FAI cup) and making 29 appearances, and was the Irish sportswriters' player of the month in April 1982. He played his last match for Dundalk against Sligo on 10 April 1983. In total, he scored 30 goals in 202 appearances for Dundalk, and appeared in thirteen European games.
Byrne made six representative appearances for League of Ireland selections, scoring on 20 April 1979 in Buenos Aires in a 1–3 defeat to Argentina, the reigning world champions. He was amongst seven Dundalk players in the League of Ireland selection that toured New Zealand in May 1982, helping the hosts prepare for their first appearance in the World Cup finals that year. This trip proved a fateful catalyst for the remainder of Byrne's sporting career.
He had trained as an apprentice coach builder with CIÉ in Inchicore, and practised his trade elsewhere before becoming a truck driver. His haulage employers having closed down due to the recession, he emigrated to New Zealand in April 1983 with his wife Valerie and two young children, Stephen and Freida. Joining Gisborne City for the 1983 season, after being recruited by their player-manager – former Sligo Rovers centre back Kevin Fallon, who saw him play on the 1982 tour – Byrne helped the club reach the final of the Chatham Cup, but broke his ankle in the match, which ended in a 2–2 draw; he was badly missed in the replay, won by Mount Wellington. Returning from the injury, in 1984 he was a commanding midfield presence as Gisborne won the national league and the Air New Zealand Cup; they again narrowly lost the Chatham Cup final. After winning the Chatham Cup with Gisborne in 1987 as assistant player-manager, Byrne played for Gisborne Thistle in the 1987/8 season in the Central League. Taking New Zealand citizenship, Byrne made seventeen appearances for the New Zealand national soccer team 'All-Whites'.
Byrne and his family moved in 1989 to Melbourne, Australia, where he became player-coach of Morwell Pegasus SC in Victoria in the mid 1990s, leading the club to a series of local league promotions and titles. After suffering from motor neuron disease, he died in Melbourne aged 48 on 11 August 2003. In 2008 Morwell Pegasus inaugurated the Seán Byrne Award for the best and fairest player in the club's senior squad.