Following Celtic’s shock, but deserved, exit from the Champions League the number of Irish players in the Europe’s premier competition has dropped to a lowly one. That man is Cillian Sheridan.
With it always being highly unlikely that a League of Ireland team will make it through the Champions League qualifiers and the fact that there aren’t really any Irish players playing for the top European teams anymore, the sight of an Irishman playing in Europe’s premier club competition is a rare thing.
Manchester United were always good for having a few of our own playing for them and gracing some of the biggest stadiums on the continent. Denis Irwin, Roy Keane, John O’Shea, Darron Gibson; to name a few. But their numbers have dwindled at the Red Devils in recent years, as has United’s guarantee of finishing among the top four of the Premier League.
With the majority of Premier League-based Irish players occupying the lesser teams, and also of the reluctance of most Irish players to play abroad, the presence of an Irishman in the Champions League is edging closer towards being a distant memory.
Ireland’s only native playing in the Champions League this year is Cillian Sheridan. The striker, who has three senior Ireland caps to his name, currently plays for APOEL FC in Cyprus and scored in APOEL’s 4-0 win over Aalborg to secure the Cypriot team a place in Europe. Sheridan has experience playing in the Champions League with Celtic back in 2008.
APOEL are best known for their run to the quarter final in the 2011-2012 season. They topped a group which included European heavyweights such as Porto, Shakhtar Donetsk and Zenit St. Petersburg and then knocked out Olympique Lyonnais in the round of 16 before they were knocked out by Real Madrid.
APOEL were given one of the worst possible groups with them having to play Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Ajax home and away. But at least Sheridan is confident as he tweeted ‘Easy’ straight after the groups were announced.
We’ll be keeping an eye on our man throughout the Champions League.
Gavin Nolan, Pundit Arena.