“We deserved the season we’ve had” -Shields

By Stephen Leonard

DUNDALK midfielder Chris Shields ranks this season among his best after helping the Lilywhites complete the double on Sunday when they beat Cork City 2-1 to lift the FAI Cup at the Aviva Stadium.

Having cantered over the finish line in their bid for a fourth Premier Division title in five seasons only last month, Stephen Kenny’s team were determined to complete the job in the 2018 FAI Cup decider against the side who had pipped them to league and cup glory last year.

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Chris Shields from Clondalkin celebrates after helping Dundalk complete a league and FAI Cup double. Photo: Ciaran Culligan

“It [this season] is right up there, especially after the manner in which we lost the title last season and then lost the Cup final on penalties,” Shields told The Echo.

“That was tough, but to regain them the way we did, it was just a great feeling and very exciting for some of the players who were winning their first league title and first cup.

“Without being big-headed about it, I think we deserved the season we’ve had. We dominated over the 36 league games this season.

“It was not an easy run in the cup, but it was not the most difficult.

“Ourselves and Cork have been the two best teams over the past five or six years and it was good to play them in the final and put that to bed after having lost to them in 2016-2017.

“It was great the way we responded to last season especially with the turnover of bodies, bringing in six or seven new players at the start of the season and then one or two midway through and losing one or two, which is unusual for us.

“But to be able to gel the way we have, it’s great. That’s all down to the management and staff bringing in the right players and also the attitude of those players who are willing to buy into what we’re trying to do at the club.

“There are players who have been there a few years now and the new players work with it and we’re getting those rewards,” he said.

While Shields and the team are still savouring their huge achievement on the domestic front this season, they will be soon gearing up for another shot at Europe.

Ambitious target

Certainly Shields is relishing the prospect of a return to the Champions League and the prospect of another run to rival that of their 2016 exploits when they played in the group stages of the Europa League.

It is an ambitious target, but Shields insists the players are capable of bouncing back strongly after their second qualifying round exit from the Europa League last summer when they suffered a heavy loss to AEK Larnaca.

“It’s getting harder to progress in Europe with the new layout,” he said. “You have to win something like four rounds if you want to get to the group stages.

“But once you get a taste for it like we did in 2016, you want to get back there. We work hard and we have the determination.

“We set ourselves very high standards and this is something we’ll be targeting. I know it’s in the back of Stephen’s [Kenny] mind especially after the disappointing way in which we went out of Europe this year,” he added.

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