Home > Shamrock Rovers Programme General Articles > Studying the game (Player Interview:Pat Sullivan)

Studying the game (Player Interview:Pat Sullivan)

From Hoops Scene Issue 3 (Shamrock Rovers v Dundalk – 21 March 2010)

Pat Sullivan is hoping to make his league debut for this season in today’s game having sat out the first two league games through suspensions carried over from last season.  Since making his debut in the League of Ireland in 2002, Sullivan has lined out for a number of clubs including UCD, Drogheda United, Longford Town and Cork City.  During that time he has also lined out in a number of different positions on the pitch including right back, centre half and in midfield.  Hoops Scene caught up with the player during the week and asked him where he thought his best position was?

“Right back.  I came to Rovers as a right back.  I did play some games in right midfield for a few teams.  At UCD they were struggling for a few players at the time and I got moved to right back.  We were doing well, I stayed there and right back turned into my position.  If needs be I may play at right midfield or at centre half but I don’t see myself playing there.”

Pat Sullivan was a Shamrock Rovers schoolboy player but it was at UCD he began his  league career and so it was a missed opportunity for Rovers who hadn’t the underage set up  that the club now has.  “I played for Rovers under 15, 16, 17 and 18.  At that time the club was not in a decent state.  We had a very good team when I was under 17 and under 18 but none of the players were kept on or progressed to any sort of the level. There was no effort.  There were a lot of players then that the club missed out on as there was no structure to the club then”.

For Sullivan it is clear how important it is that the correct structures are put in place to develop young players, not only on the pitch, but off it too.  This is something Shamrock Rovers are working hard on now and have an impressive set up at underage level with great interest now that the club is finally based in Tallaght.   He was able to attend UCD on a sports scholarship and study Sports Management whilst playing League of Ireland football.  He recognises the importance that each club should put on developing their own players.  For the size of league and country that we are it’s massively important.  You are never going to keep clubs going by just taking players off other teams.  Look at UCD, they are the model for it, they churn players out by the year, every team has a number of UCD players.  It is something our league can work on and improve. It’s not great that players leave the country at 15 or 16 and many players come back home and don’t play again.  When I was younger I never had the chance to go on trials.  When I went to UCD, I wanted to study along with football.  If we had stricter rules, you should get your education first”.

Sullivan is continuing his development by studying Business Studies as well as playing with Rovers.  This is made possible with the structures at Shamrock Rovers that see the squad train in the evening allowing players to study or work during the day.  “I came up from Cork in September and it didn’t really give me a lot time to get a job.  So I’m doing this course as I didn’t really want to let the year go to waste”.  This arrangement at Rovers is different to other clubs with many still pushing the boundaries of full time football in a league that has seen three top clubs go into Examinership in the last four years.

Sullivan enjoyed the status of playing as a full time footballer when he moved to Cork City in 2008.   “It was great when it lasts and you’re not going to say no to the money but teams find it very hard to sustain.  I’m surprised that Bohemians are keeping it going.  We are effectively full time but are training in the evening time which is probably the only difference between ourselves and Bohs”.  That training regime sees the squad train in the early evening three times a week as Sullivan outlined,  “we start the week with training on a Monday, then again Tuesday with a break on Wednesday.  We then train Thursday and play Friday evening.  We are in on Saturday for a run or a swim so it is a busy enough time”.

Sullivan’s chance to come back to Rovers last season came about due to the financial fiasco that unfolded at Cork City.  While he enjoyed his football in Cork, it all got too much when wages went unpaid and cheques began to bounce.  Thankfully he was able to leave and join Rovers mid-way through last season.  “I was more than happy to sever ties.  The club were a disgrace.  I was lucky to get out”.

Once he made the move he didn’t look back, enjoyed getting on with playing football and the manner that Rovers play the game.  “I started playing straight away and then we were winning which is a good settler.  You’ve got to defend when you have to defend but when you get the ball in the other half of the pitch, we try to get it down, you’ve got wingers for a reason and you’ve strikers for a reason.  You get your strikers in the box and you’re wingers on the wing.  The majority of us like to play, that’s how I like to play.  I like to defend with the best of them with tackles and headers but I love going forward as a full back and Michael O’Neill gives us licence to do that.  I’m more than happy to play in that type of system”.

The style of play and the size of the pitch in Tallaght fits nicely with this philosophy.  “Yeah, it’s massive.  Space wise when you’re on top of the game, it is great to have that size of pitch as you can really stretch teams.  It’s the way we like to play as we do have wingers and we can get it wide.  It’s the way I like the game to be played and it’s the most enjoyable way of playing on the pitch”.

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