Shields keen to leave a legacy with double
At a time of the year when League of Ireland players around the country are wondering about their futures, Dundalk's Chris Shields is something of a rarity.
A new two-year contract tucked away, Dubliner Shields has the luxury of being able to plan ahead.
But he's also looking to the long, long term, hoping that success for his Dundalk side in the FAI Cup final tomorrow can make sure that this Dundalk side, widely regarded as one of the finest to play in the league, live on in memory.
"At the start of the year, the manager told us that while good teams win the league, only great teams retain it so that was our main goal and our challenge," ex-Bray man Shields, the longest-serving player at the club, told The Herald.
"That's the standard you set yourself and if we can win the double, we'd set a nice benchmark for future teams who will play here. You see people like Joey Malone and all the Dundalk greats on the walls here in Oriel Park and hopefully this team will have our photo up on that wall.
"You want to leave a legacy, I'd love to bring my kids, or grandkids, down here some day and show them the photos of this team. That's what Stephen Kenny set out to do, with the players he signed, and we're on the verge of that, winning a double," added Shields.
The midfielder, one of two survivors from the pre-Kenny era, was one of those players who was unknown and unheralded before Kenny turned him into a two-time league winner with Champions League experience on the verge of a double.
"Stephen's eye for a player is remarkable," says Shields.
"He brought in someone like Dane Massey, who had been half-decent at Bray but he didn't have a big reputation. Who'd heard of Pat Hoban before Stephen signed him? Or Sean Gannon, who was a squad player at Pats but who Stephen cemented as his right full. Same with Andy Boyle and Brian Gartland, the manager just knew they were good players and he got the best out of them."
Playing in the Champions League last summer was a career highlight for Shields, despite the defeat to BATE Borisov, and reminded him just how far he'd come since Dundalk were almost relegated in his debut season.
"It's been a whirlwind, when you look at where we are now," he recalls. "I remember standing beside John Moutney in the line-up when they played the Champions League anthem in Belarus when we played BATE, it was a reminder of all the hard work we had done since we came to the club."
That work has yielded two league titles, but Shields says the hunger is as strong as ever ahead of tomorrow.
"To go and win the cup, in the national stadium in front of your family and friends as well as the club's supporters, would be amazing," he says.
"Cork will be chomping at the bit to win and get a trophy but we don't want to go all the way to the Aviva and not get the trophy. We want to win all we can, we won the league, the President's Cup and Leinster Senior Cup, we were unlucky to go out of the EA Sports Cup on penalties, we want to be in the habit of winning trophies."
FA Cup Final: Dundalk v Cork City, live tomorrow RTE2 (ko 3.30)