Cillian Sheridan: A journey from Ireland's green fields to the global football stage

Cillian Sheridan wins the challenge during his debut against Paraguay

Cillian Sheridan wins the challenge during his debut against Paraguay Credit: Andy McDonnell (ETPhotos)

During this international window dominated by conversations about Stephen Kenny and the job he's doing with the senior national team, it may be interesting to take a look at the man he succeeded in the hot seat at Oriel Park, before his succession to the national Under 21 management, and one of his most internationally travelled prodigies.

Unlike Kenny, whose impressive club management career led him to a position in charge of the national side, Monaghan man Seán McCaffrey enjoyed a successful period coaching underage Republic of Ireland sides before attempting a second stint at League of Ireland management in 2012. His first began with Monaghan United almost 30 years previously.

Having cut his teeth with the Monaghan-based outfit Oriel Celtic, of which he was one of the founders, McCaffrey succeeded Brian Kerr as Republic of Ireland U17 manager and was in charge of the U17s, U18s, and U19s until 2010.

While such age groups are designed for development purposes to help populate the senior national team in years to come, winning silverware is a nice bonus and in this regard, McCaffrey succeeded.

During his seven-year reign as underage manager, he oversaw the development of well over twenty senior internationals including Robbie Brady, Darren Randolph, Jeff Hendrick, Shane Duffy, Stephen Ward, John Egan, James McCarthy, etc. However, it's a less heralded member of the number who holds the title of most travelled.

Striker Cillian Sheridan netted the clinching second goal in the 2005 Nordic Cup (U17) triumph over England while at Belvedere. However, the travelling up and down the N3 from Cavan to Dublin was only the start of the Bailieborough Bohemian's journeying.

Having signed for Glasgow Celtic FC as a teenager, the attacker went on to play with clubs in Scotland, England, Poland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, New Zealand, and Israel. He is due to depart Dundee FC at the end of the month, though he's looking to continue his career, "For the next three to five years, I think I can play. I didn't have a full academy upbringing, so I don't have that much labour on my body. I think I've a few years left in me!"                                                     

Speaking with Shane Hannon and Pauric Clerkin on the Different Class podcast, the 34-year-old explained that changing places was in his blood from an early age, having begun his footballing career in Belvedere as a left back in his mid-teens.

Prior to joining the Dublin outfit, he explained how Gaelic football was much more structured than soccer in Cavan at the time. Another interesting nugget from the interview, available here, is that the 6'5 player would have considered taking on a career in Australian Rules if the professional soccer career didn't happen.

However, those AFL clubs never got that second conversation with Sheridan as he went to Parkhead at 17 in 2006, a year after (current Laois Gaelic footballer) Paul Cahalane - who Sheridan rated as one of the best players in Ireland at the time.

Despite being on trial at four different British clubs, the Cavan native was honest that Celtic were the only side to actually offer him a contract. He made his debut for the Scottish giants in a European tie against Manchester United in the spring of 2008 and scored his first goal for the club at Celtic Park in a 4-2 win over Hibs in the October.

Despite making 15 SPL appearances at the start of the 2008/09 season, Sheridan was loaned to Motherwell, and two subsequent loans the following season (to Plymouth in the English Championship and SPL outfit St Johnstone) saw the forward depart Parkhead at the end of the 2009/10 season.

The permanent move to Bulgarian behemoths CSKA Sofia was a challenge. In his own words, "The first move was the hardest one to do as I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't know what was the right thing to do and what was the wrong thing to do, but then that served me well for the rest of my career. When another opportunity came up, I didn't hesitate. I just said, 'Yeah that's what I want to do', and I knew how to adapt and receive other cultures whereas the first time I went to Bulgaria, I didn't."

"I had no appreciation of their culture, of how they did things. I went over there thinking, 'This is how I've done things in the UK, so why aren't you doing it here?' I never grasped the concept of being more welcoming to their culture and adapt".

"It's brilliant going abroad, but you have to prepare for the unexpected".

In terms of expectations, it's a leap for any Irishman to achieve two Cypriot league titles and two national cups with APOEL Nicosia, play in six Champions League games in 2014/15- including two against an imperious Barcelona outfit featuring Xavi, Neymar, and Messi- and then score 15 goals the following season for their local rivals Omonia.

"I was lucky that football went well so I could relax there and enjoy the island. Everything clicked at the same time."

Further in the podcast interview, Sheridan also referenced the importance of Niall Stack- who has since worked with the Tipperary footballers- and how he helped the striker look at aspects of his career in a different way, something he says he still uses to this day.

For an international article on an international weekend, it's apt to finish with Sheridan's senior international career.

Having been first introduced to the setup by his county neighbour McCaffrey, it was Italian Giovanni Trapattoni who gave him his three international caps- the final one in a defeat against Argentina at the Aviva Stadium. "To be able to do it (play internationally) at the Aviva, and against Messi, yeah it was a special moment."