Sunday 16 December 2018

Sheppard in call to king

Rovers man hopes good form will impress Ireland's U21 boss

SHAMROCK Rovers man Karl Sheppard hopes that his superb run of form with the Hoops will catch the eye of Ireland U21 boss Noel King.

Like lots of players in the League of Ireland, former Everton man Sheppard harbours ambitions of playing for his country at senior international level -- and with LOI graduates like David Forde, Seamus Coleman, Stephen Ward and Keith Fahey all winning senior caps in recent weeks it's not as far-fetched an idea now as it would have been a decade ago.

But playing for the U21s for the first time is next on the agenda for the 20-year-old Rovers man, who scored his ninth goal of the season in Rovers' 6-1 hammering of UCD last Friday night.

"I've played for my country all the way up the age groups but I haven't been capped for the U21s yet and that's something I'd like to change," said the in-form Sheppard ahead of tonight's Premier Division game at home to Derry City.

"I have been in the U21 squad, I went to Turkey for a qualifier last year but I was on the bench and didn't get to play. It was a great experience but now I'd like to try and get on the field and win an U21 cap for myself.

"If I can keep playing well with Rovers and scoring goals, then I have a chance. Noel King picked Enda Stevens for the last U21 game a few months ago so that shows that he is willing to call on players from the league, what I have to do is keep up my form with Rovers -- and keep my place in the team -- so that when the next U21 squad comes around later in the summer, I have a chance of being in there," added Sheppard, who won the last of his nine youth caps against Bosnia 21 months ago.


"I am very ambitious, I want to win senior caps with Ireland and seeing the likes of Stephen Ward and Keith Fahey doing it shows that it can happen for you if you are good enough and you work hard.

"I'd like to play abroad again if the chance came, and I want to play for my country, but for now I'll concentrate on doing well for Rovers, see if that's enough to get me into the U21s."

A close-season signing from Galway United, Sheppard has been doing very well for the Hoops -- especially as he's being played away from his natural position. The Hoops' current formation means that Sheppard -- a natural striker -- has been playing out on the wing.

"Ever since I can remember I have been a striker so it's strange for me to be out wide," says the Dubliner. "I think the Setanta Cup games were the first matches I was tried out wide, and being honest, I wasn't sure I would be able for it. You're used to playing a certain way when you're a striker. I suppose you can be a bit more selfish, but when you're put into midfield you have to do a lot more work, you have more defensive duties.

"But the manager felt I could do the job...and hopefully I have rewarded him with a few good games and some goals."

Rovers welcome Derry to Tallaght Stadium tonight and Sheppard says it's about time the Hoops went on a winning run.

"We're having a good season so far, we're top of the table, but we haven't been able to put a winning run together," he says.

"We started off the season winning three in a row in the league but we haven't done it since then. We tend to look at the season in terms of quarters. We have beaten Bohs and UCD, if we can get six points against Derry and Galway in the next two games that'll be four in a row and that would be a good way to finish off the second quarter."

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