Home > Shamrock Rovers Player Interviews for programme > Defending from the Heart (Craig Sives Interview)

Defending from the Heart (Craig Sives Interview)

Shamrock Rovers have had a busy July with tonight’s match being their seventh game with one more to follow before month’s end. Two of the games already played have been in the Europa League where Rovers took on Israeli side Bnei Yehuda with the small matter of the prize of two games against the mighty Juventus for the winners. Hoops Scene got a chance to talk to Craig Sives before the Scotsman flew out to Tel Aviv with his team mates for the second leg of the Europa League second round qualifying tie.

http://www.shamrockrovers.ie/multimedia (George Kelly)

Sives is enjoying his football at present and why wouldn’t he be as he has proved to be an integral part of the Shamrock Rovers team that is challenging for the Airtricity League of Ireland title. “The games are coming thick and fast which is great”, said Sives who went on to explain it does mean he doesn’t get home to Scotland that often. “Maybe if I’m lucky once or twice a month. It is hard at this time of year because of all the games that we’ve got”. As well as clubs like Juventus, Liverpool and Galatasaray in the Europa League this year, Sives was keeping his eye out for a footballing trip back to Edinburgh. “I wouldn’t mind getting a tie against Hibs”, said the former Hearts man of the possibility of a match against Hearts’ big rivals. There is a lot of attention in Ireland on Scottish football but is mostly focussed on the Old Firm rather than the two big Edinburgh clubs. “I’ve been a Hearts fan all my life so I still look for the results. If I’m being honest with you since I’ve been over here I’ve kind of lost touch. There is not a lot of coverage.”

Sives remembers his time and his former teammates fondly from Heart of Midlothian. “When I was in the U19s with Hearts I played centre half with Christophe Berra who is first pick centre half at Wolves and a Scottish international. Jaime MacDonald was Hearts’ first choice goalie when I was there. I also played with Lee Wallace and Andrew Driver. We had a decent team all right.”

Of course, Sives career has been plagued by injuries. A quick list of his injuries include problems with his back, pubic bone, groin, a double hernia and an ankle ligament tear. It was those injuries that jeopardised his career. When Michael O’Neill took over at Shamrock Rovers he got in touch with Sives following his release from Hearts after loan spells with Partick Thistle, Dundee and Queen of the South. “He gave me a phone call and asked would I meet him in Edinburgh to talk about things and see if I’d fancy coming over. I took it from there. I thought I would give it a bash. There was nothing really available in Scotland at the time just a couple of lower league teams,” said Sives who is now thankful to be talking about football rather than those injuries. “Yeah, hopefully that is all in the past. I missed a month at the start of this season through injury which was disappointing. Things that gave me trouble in the past like my back or my groin, touch wood that is all behind me. I’m enjoying playing. It is good to be up challenging for things. That is what I came over for, to challenge for leagues, win trophies and for European football which is something that I probably wouldn’t have got playing at the level I was playing at in Scotland. I’m happy enough at the moment.”

http://www.shamrockrovers.ie/multimedia (Bobby Best)

He got his first taste of European football when Tel Aviv side Bnei Yehuda visited Tallaght earlier in the month. It was a game that ended in a draw after Robert Bayly grabbed a late equaliser to spark great scenes of celebration in Tallaght Stadium on its debut European night. “It was a good end to the game. We would have taken that result with five minutes to go but having conceded a goal we will be looking to keep a clean sheet over there. They kept the ball for periods of time for quite a while. We knew that would be the case from before the game. They were pretty good at it. If we play as we did in the last few games, they couldn’t really deal with us. They were there for the taking. I certainly thought we could have got a decent lead. We certainly had the chances to get ahead. Just off the top of my head I can’t really remember Alan Mannus having a save to make.”

Sives has been slotting in occasionally as full back, including during the Bnei Yehuda game, as manager Michael O’Neill shuffles his squad to cope with the combined challenge of the Airtricity League, Europa League, FAI Cup and EA Sports cup. “Centre half is my preferred position and probably my best position. When I was in Scotland with Partick Thistle I played maybe 30 games there at right back so it is not alien to me. It is completely different to centre half. It is a different type of fitness. You are going forward and back whereas at centre half you are sideways and backwards.”

For each corner Rovers win, the centre halves will trot up and attempt to get their heads on the ball and generally cause havoc. While it took Aidan Price a few seasons to break his goal scoring duck and Dan Murray scored his only goal in the win over Galway in May, Sives has yet to get on the score sheet for the Hoops. Against Dundalk his spectacular volley from outside the box needed an equally spectacular save to prevent his first goal. “I don’t know where that came from to be honest,” joked Sives before saying, “that is part of my game I need to improve on. But at the end of the day I’m a defender so my job is to keep clean sheets. I don’t really care if I score”.

It is back to the competitive Airtricity League for tonight’s game against UCD which will test the squad who travelled back from Israel at the end of last week. However, Sives thinks that the togetherness of the squad will help in challenging the other teams around them at the top of the table. “There is a great team spirit. Everybody gets on well with each other. There are no big time Charlies. It is great to be honest. The league is very competitive. It could be anyone from four or five. Looking back we should really be a good few points clear at the top when you think of the points that we have dropped and the games we have drawn. The last few league games have gone really well and we have played really well so we need to keep going.”

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