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Interview: Sheridan urges more Irish players to go further afield

We caught up with the well-travelled Ireland striker to talk about his recent move to Cyprus.

Sheridan playing for Kilmarnock last season.
Sheridan playing for Kilmarnock last season.
Image: Lynne Cameron/PA Archive/Press Association Images

AT 24, IT would be unfair to call Cillian Sheridan a ‘journeyman’ but he is certainly well-travelled in comparison to the majority of Irish footballers.

While much of his professional career has been spent in the Scottish Premier League, the Cavan native last month accepted the offer to move to Cypriot football with champions APOEL.

And it’s not the first time Sheridan has joined a club outside the comfort zone that is Britain and Ireland.

Having played with local club Bailieborough Celtic and then Belvedere in Dublin at schoolboy level, Celtic came calling as a teenager. While he was also a keen Gaelic footballer who had represented Cavan’s minors, a move the pull of the Hoops proved too strong and he jumped at the chance to depart for Glasgow.

Although he broke into the first team under Gordon Strachan he wasn’t fancied by the fiery Scot’s successor, Tony Mowbray, and was farmed out on a couple of loan stints.

In 2010, however, the opportunity to sign for CSKA Sofia came up. Eager to improve his game while experiencing a new culture, Sheridan agreed. It began encouragingly, but in hindsight, the football side of things didn’t go quite as well as he had hoped.

After two years on the Bulgarian club’s books (one of which was on loan at St Johnstone), Sheridan returned to Scotland with Kilmarnock. Despite that, he doesn’t regret the decision.

Looking back, it’s not something I regret,” Sheridan told TheScore.ie. “It was good with a few bad points. Football-wise it probably didn’t go too well but as an experience it was priceless.”

He scored 10 goals in 28 appearance for Killie last term but, in the back of his mind, had decided that if he got another chance to play abroad, he would give it another go.

Former Portugal international Paulo Sergio knew the striker from his time as Hearts manager and told APOEL representatives to enquire about his availability. The two clubs came to an agreement and it didn’t take long for Sheridan to sign on and leave Scotland with his girlfriend.

He has been settling into his new environment over the past month and, when we talked to him earlier this week, the squad are in Austria on a two-week pre-season training camp.

According to Sheridan, the early signs have been positive.

“The manager has been brilliant,” he says. “He’s very open with all the players and said from day one that he is there to talk to. That’s important that a manager isn’t out of touch with the players.

“It’s only been a month now but the whole squad and the club have made me feel really welcome. It has been a very easy move to make.”

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Sheridan replacing Robbie Keane for Ireland in 2010. Credit: INPHO/Donall Farmer

A switch to APOEL also means a return to European football Champions League. It it five years since Sheridan started against Manchester United at Celtic Park and he is desperate to add to his appearances in Europe’s elite competition.

Yesterday, they were paired with Birkirkara of Malta and Slovenia’s Maribor in the third round qualifying, which takes place in August.

“That (Champions League) is massive,” admits Sheridan. “Over here they’re a massive club and the fans will be expecting us to get back into the group stages this season. That’s what we’ve been aiming towards over the past month of training.

In the past couple of years, several Irish players such as Aiden McGeady, Liam Lawrence, Robbie Keane and Darren O’Dea have opted for moves to clubs in Eastern Europe, the US and Canada.

Sheridan sees it as a positive step and would encourage others to follow suit.

I don’t really see what harm it does. Even if it’s two seasons out of your career, it’s worth doing. I think it helps in other aspects of your career and seeing how other countries train and conduct themselves.

“Experiencing different cultures and lifestyles is something that I would encourage.”

On the international front, Sheridan hasn’t been involved with the Ireland team in a couple of years having won his first of three senior caps against Paraguay in 2010. He may not be in Giovanni Trapattoni’s plans right now but did get a phone call from the Italian when the squad for Euro 2012.

“Trapattoni himself phoned to say I hadn’t made the squad but he just said I was in his back-up. I was quite surprised to get it as it wasn’t something I was expecting. It’s good to know you’re still thought of and it does give you something to strive for instead of giving up on it.

“When I was originally called up it was a bit of a surprise but that is where I want to get back to. Maybe people will see this as stepping out of sight but I’m hoping to use it as a chance to get back involved.

“The national team is where I want to be.”

Right now, the primary aim is to get himself into APOEL’s starting line-up so he can start banging in goals.

“My main aim here is to come and be a success. If I do that it will provide me with other opportunities. If we’re in Europe and I’m doing well hopefully it can get me right to the top.”

Follow Cillian on Twitter @CillianSheridan

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