EXETER'S IRISH BACK-STOP: PIERCE SWEENEY ON HIS RETURN TO THE GRECIANS STARTING XI
In a squad that has seen plenty of change over the past five years, one of the few that have stood the test of time is Pierce Sweeney.
Having been signed in 2016 by Paul Tisdale, the Irishman has made over 150 appearances for the Grecians and after a spell out of the squad at the start of this season, he has since regained his spot in the first eleven.
After arriving at City in 2016, Sweeney soon found himself in a slightly unfamiliar position of right-back, which was something he had to adjust to.
“Before I came here I had never really played right-back and Paul Tisdale signed me as a centre-half that could play right-back and when I made my debut away at Blackpool in 2016, I played right-side centre-half and from then on in I played right-back,” said Sweeney.
Originally a centre-back, Sweeney knows he is not the typical modern-day full-back but understands the importance of being versatile and helping the squad.
“I’m a different kind of right-back to a modern day one, I won’t be up and down, box to box or anything like that, I’ll more feed and sit behind and deliver and put some crosses in. But at heart, I’m more of a right-sided centre-half but if I have to play right-back, I’ll do a job,” said Sweeney.
After four seasons of predominantly playing on the flanks, Sweeney has taken his chance at centre-back and has helped Exeter onto a 12-game unbeaten run, forming a partnership with the experienced Tom Parkes.
Sweeney said: “We’ve had a decent enough partnership, we understand each other’s games, each other’s weaknesses and we’ve been there to sweep up and help each other out a lot, over the last couple weeks.
“I’m enjoying playing with Tom (Parkes) and hopefully the results can keep coming and if the both of us are playing, I’m sure we’ll continue to try and be two brick walls at the back, at the end of the day that’s our job.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, alongside the addition of the EFL salary cap, it's led to clubs having to look to their youth teams for players.
This is something Exeter are very used to though, with one of the strongest academies in England, so it is no surprise that Matt Taylor and co have looked to the academy to bolster their ranks.
Sweeney, as an experienced defender, knows the importance of relaying that experience to the younger players around him.
“It is important, because if you speak to any experienced player, they’ve always learnt off experienced players so it’s a drip feed, you are only going to learn from people older than you, who’ve played more games,” said Sweeney.
The 26-year-old also realises that there is more for him to learn and believes that the addition of Rory McCardle will not only benefit him, but his younger teammates as well.
“I think even the new players coming in, Rory, he’s 33, he’s had like 400 games, I’m going to learn off him and other young lads are going to learn off me and him,” said Sweeney.
While some were not sure on Sweeney’s future at Exeter, the Irishman has proven that he is someone who is here to stay at St James Park.