Super sub Shields hails squad spirit
DUNDALK'S remarkable season produced another highlight last Friday as the Lilywhites defeated champions Sligo Rovers in front of a raucous Oriel Park crowd.
The win continued the magnificent run of form that Stephen Kenny's men currently enjoy and it also emphasised how powerful the team spirit is amongst the squad.
The desire to see the team prosper above the need for personal glory was evident from the performance of the sole surviving outfield player from last season's traumatic season.
Chris Shields had every right to feel sorry for himself after he discovered that he had failed to make the starting eleven following strong performances in an unfamiliar left back role.
Instead, last year's captain took the decision on the chin and got on with preparing the best way he could for the team.
'Not making the team was tough to take and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't upset. But the gaffer came in and said he was going to go with Dane at left back, he's a natural left back and gives the team balance.
'The gaffer obviously knows what he is doing so I bit my lip and took my place on the bench. The back four were great during the game and Dane played well and at this stage of the season it is all about the win.'
His attitude is typical of the squad, which only came together in the closing stages of pre-season. There certainly seems to be no egos in the club and that is something that the Clondalkin native is quick to stress.
'Everybody is behind one another, it really is one big team and it isn't about any one individual. If you watch the bench when we score you will see that we are up out of our seats applauding whoever scores and that spirit is only going to help us in the last few games of the season.'
When he did enter the action on Friday night he helped turn the game for Dundalk who were outnumbered in the middle of the field. One moment in particular seemed to galvanise the team and the crowd.
As Sligo's Kieran Djilali set off on another speedy assault down the wing Shields tracked him and before sliding in with an inch perfect tackle that seemed to lift every Dundalk person in the ground.
The former Bray player was more relieved that something had gone right for him after his second half introduction.
'The tackle came after my bad first touch and I was thinking it was going to be one of those nights when nothing works. The tackle seemed to set the tone for me for the night and it lifted the place a bit.'
Of course the night got better for both Shields and Dundalk as he was on hand to bury Darren Meenan's pinpoint cross into the net for his first goal of the season.
The club has gone through a remarkable turn around in the last year, but for the vast majority of the squad, the shambles in Oriel was something that they viewed from outside.
Indeed, only two players, Peter Cherrie and Shields, have survived from the traumatic experience of being at a club that nearly went out of existence.
However, the central midfielder had little doubts about re-signing with the Carrick Road club. 'As soon as I saw that Stephen was appointed I was confident that the club was heading the right way.
'As bad as it was last year I did enjoy my time up here, playing and living here. I thought it couldn't be worse than last year because the only way was up. Credit has to go to the board for getting the manager in. After the second week of pre-season I knew I had made the right decision coming back.'
With the three points in the bag, attention naturally turns to the next game against Limerick, a team they have so far failed to beat this season.
For Shields, a chance to get to the Aviva Stadium for a Cup final is something that everyone at the club are taking extremely serious.
'The cup is massive for us and we want a good run in it. The important thing is not to get complacent and to take every game as a one-off.
'Our biggest game of the season is always the next game and we are never looking past Friday night. The Limerick match is just as big as they rest have been over the past few weeks.'