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Interviews

💬 One Year On: Pierce Sweeney's Memories of Promotion

Pierce Sweneey chats with us, one year on from that memorable night under the lights

26 April 2023

Interviews

💬 One Year On: Pierce Sweeney's Memories of Promotion

Pierce Sweneey chats with us, one year on from that memorable night under the lights

26 April 2023

One year on, but memories that will last a lifetime. After ten years away, Exeter City finally gained promotion to League One on a mesmerising evening under the lights at St James Park with a 2-1 win over Barrow.

Defender Pierce Sweeney, a Grecian of seven years, reflects on an incredible 2021/22 campaign.

"When that final whistle went, my first thought was 'where is that big bottle of champagne!

"It was a feeling of a lot of years of trying and a lot of years of missed opportunities and a lot of trips to Wembley that didn't go to plan. It was a weight off, particularly my, shoulders.

"To do it with a couple of games to spare that season was really special. We had a great group of players and a great changing room."

It could have almost not happened for the Grecians had they not arrested their poor form at the start of the season that saw a 3-0 defeat at Leyton Orient sandwiched by two goalless draws. Indeed it was not until the fourth league game of the season that City found the back of the net.

"After the first few games of the season we were shellshocked at our start getting tanked at Orient, but it turned out that after about ten games we really started to believe something was happening."

Falling behind in that promotion decider to what would go down as a Cameron Dawson own goal was hardly an ideal start to the biggest night in City's recent history, but such was the mettle of the 21/22 squad assembled by Matt Taylor, heads never dropped.

"There were a lot of scenarios though the season where things were going for us, where we were winning 1-0 late on and getting the rub of the green with the decisions. And when that freak goal goal went in nobody panicked. We felt the game was still in our hands and we all knew we were not going to lose that game.

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"It was probably one of the worst games I'll play in quality wise, but there was no panic from us or the coaching staff. In fairness our equaliser was a little bit lucky as well, but yeah, we were never worried."

And while Phillips' leveller took a wild deflection, there was little doubt about the winner from captain Matt Jay, who could not have struck the ball any sweeter past Paul Farman. 2-1 up with 12 minutes to go and promotion was within touching distance.

"When the ball gets crossed into the box and landed at MJ, I don't think anyone else expected anything different. I will never forget that. I think I was about 40 yards away. I will never forget that cross coming in, MJ taking it on his chest and then keeping it low.

"I was a bit disappointed in the celebration to be honest. He's got a backflip in his locker - if ever there was a time to do a backflip MJ, it's then! I don't think we wanted it to be anyone else [to score the goal].

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While it will be that strike that goes down in Exeter City history, incredible goals - particularly those in the final ten minutes - were indictaive of the Grecians season and those that would ultimately lead us to the third tier.

"I think the biggest turning point for us was Sparkes' goal against Harrogate. If we don't win that game, who knows what would have happened. That gave us more confidence and more belief that when you are going to get promoted, things like that go your way. For us to come back from 3-1 was a little bit of luck, a little bit of quality, and the Big Bank sucked a couple in."

The team also had to deal with plenty of adversity off the pitch, with a poor run of the results over the festive period, coupled with a three match streak of postponements due to a Covid outbreak in the squad and several away trips delayed by traffic issues. But typically of this squad, they got through it. 

"The one things I've always praised is that we always bring good players in, but also good people in. If it was any other team and any other group of players, they wouldn't have stayed together through everything like we did when stuff like that happens. That was the core of how we've been. When you're good people, good things come your way.

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"These are the moments that when you retire and you're in your late 50s or 60s, you'll look back on the good times. I'll always be in touch with the people I achieved something with. It's definitely the most memorable season of my career."

Watch the full interview with Pierce here 👇


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