Updated at 12.37
CILLIAN SHERIDAN IS hoping a move to Polish title contenders Jagiellonia Bialystok will boost his chances of a recall to the Ireland squad.
The Cavan native became the first Irishman to move to the Polish top flight earlier this week, when it was announced that he had joined Jagiellonia from Cypriot outfit Omonia Nicosia.
And the 28-year-old former Celtic striker has not given up hope of adding to his three international caps won to date — the last of which was earned in a friendly against Argentina in 2010 during Giovanni Trapattoni’s reign as manager.
Asked if he thought a move to the Ekstraklasa could boost his hopes of an Ireland recall, Sheridan told The42:
I’m hoping it will, but I’d be kind of second guessing what (the Irish management) are thinking. To them, it might not make a difference where I’m playing. I might just not be the kind of player that they want.
“But I think coming here will give me a better chance to put myself into their plans.
If not, then fair enough, but I felt (playing in Poland) was a chance for me push myself a bit more and one I thought I had to take.”
Sheridan has been in good form of late. In addition to eight goals in 17 starts this season for Omonia, he managed 15 goals from 22 starts last year — the first time in his career that he reached double figures in the goalscoring charts over the course of a season.
With Robbie Keane now retired and Jon Walters an injury doubt for the vital upcoming Wales game, Ireland are short of strikers at the moment.
Last November, as Shane Long and Daryl Murphy were unavailable for the clash against Austria, Walters and Kevin Doyle were the only two experienced forwards selected, with the uncapped Adam Rooney and Ipswich’s David McGoldrick (5 caps) also making the trip.
Given the current lack of obvious alternatives, Sheridan — still the last Irish player to start a Champions League group game having featured in all six of APOEL Nicosia’s matches in the 2014-15 season — may come into contention for a squad place during the 2018 World Cup qualification campaign.
Polish football, it seems, is a step in the right direction as far as the physically imposing forward’s prospects are concerned. Ranked above Scotland among others in the Uefa country coefficients, the league was relatively well represented in Europe this season by Legia Warsaw, who beat Dundalk on their way to qualification for the Champions League, before finishing third in a difficult group that also included Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund.
And Sheridan could be back in the Champions League next season with a bit of luck. Jagiellonia — who were also linked with a loan move for Blackburn’s Irish striker Anthony Stokes recently — are currently second in the Ekstraklasa table, four points behind leaders Lechia Gdańsk at roughly the halfway point of the Polish season.Source: ONCOM VIDEOS/YouTube
Having spent the last four years of his career in Cyprus, Sheridan faced an anxious wait to complete the move in recent days, with the Polish transfer window deadline looming.
Jagiellonia initially had a bid for the Irish hitman rejected in January, but after some last-minute negotiating, the deal eventually got over the line earlier this week just before the deadline passed.
I put it behind me and had kind of forgotten about (Jagiellonia’s interest), but they came back in there maybe a day or two before the transfer window closed,” he recalls.
“January was a long month with all the negotiating back and forth. (The prospect of a move) was finished and then when it came back up again, in a few days, it was done.
Monday was pretty mad to try to get stuff organised, getting packed and stuff to leave. Tuesday morning was the medical and signing and everything, so that was busy as well. So for the two days, it was non-stop. (On Wednesday) I was able to go in and meet the team and stuff, so it feels more real now that I’ve gotten my first training session in.”
Re-locating to a new city in which English is not the main language has proved difficult for Irish and British footballers in the past, but Sheridan is well used to such challenges, having spent a season in Bulgaria with CSKA Sofia as well as four years in Cyprus. Moreover, in addition to his girlfriend accompanying him to Poland, he knows Croatian defender Ivan Runje from their time together at Omonia, while there is one other native English speaker in the squad — 23-year-old Scottish full-back Ziggy Gordon.
I’ve never played with (Ziggy), but to hear a familiar accent (at training) was nice,” Sheridan adds. “I’m sure he was probably relieved as well that I came, for the same reasons.”
Sheridan, who as a teenager represented Cavan GAA at minor level, comes into a side full of confidence. Jagiellonia’s most successful ever season was as recently as the 2014-15 campaign when they finished third — a feat they are on course to improve upon as it stands.
They have seven more games before the 16-team league splits in two — in a manner akin to the Scottish Premiership — with the top eight and bottom eight subsequently separated into two different mini leagues for the end-of-season run-in.
Moreover, with the pressure on Jagiellonia to maintain their title tilt from now until the season’s climax on 4 June, Sheridan is well aware of the significant challenges that lay ahead.
“From what I gather, it’s a tough competitive league. It’s almost like any team can beat any team. I can’t comment too much without playing games, but from what I’ve been told, it’s a good league. It’s a new challenge and I’m looking forward to it.”
Keep an eye on the site this weekend for part 2 of our interview with Cillian Sheridan, in which he discusses making his Champions League debut against Manchester United at Old Trafford, the impact of sports psychology on his career and his GAA background.
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