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Dublin: 6 °C Sunday 17 November, 2019

Shields staying cool in the face of relegation drama

Dundalk skipper Chris Shields knows how it feels to beat the drop. Now he’s ready to do it all again against Waterford tonight.

Shields battles Man of the Match Seanie Maguire during Tuesday evening's 2-2 draw at Oriel Park.
Shields battles Man of the Match Seanie Maguire during Tuesday evening's 2-2 draw at Oriel Park.
Image: ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

CHRIS SHIELDS KNOWS all about great escapes and the Dundalk skipper will be ready to celebrate another one if the Lilywhites clinch top-flight survival against Waterford tonight.

Two years ago, Shields experienced the agony and the ecstasy of relegation drama when he scored an own goal which nearly sent Bray Wanderers down — and then stepped up minutes later to score the winning penalty in a shootout against Monaghan.

Now he leads a Dundalk side who travel south with their fate in their own hands thanks to Stephen McDonnell’s 25-yard equaliser to snatch a 2-2 draw in the Airtricity League play-off first leg.

The hosts were lucky to leave Oriel Park on level terms after Stephen Maher was sent off in the first half, reducing them to 10 men for an hour against an in-form Waterford side.

But the tie is still alive and Shields knows that there are few better feelings than beating the drop.

“I can tell the lads how it feels to stay up,” he tells ahead of tonight’s trip to RSC (kick-off 7.45pm). “It’s almost as if you’ve won the league or won the cup.

It’s an unbelievable feeling just to know that you’re safe for another year after a long season.

Looking back to Tuesday evening’s drawn game, he says: “We were happy enough coming off level after playing for a good hour with 10 men. I suppose we were thankful enough to still be in the tie.

“They could’ve taken the advantage and had they got another goal it would have been an uphill task. Luckily we showed grit and determination to get back level when we were 2-1 down.”

“At the moment, after a 2-2 draw in the first leg, it’s a level playing field. I think we have enough quality throughout the team. I know we’re young but there’s some good players in there and I think we’ve enough to go down and win in Waterford.

“Everybody in the squad seems to be the same. It’s an upbeat camp. We’re not considering ourselves to be the underdogs or going in too confident or cocky either. That level-headedness is what we need.”

And although Waterford and their fans would beg to differ, Shields says it would be a disaster if Dundalk lose tonight and one of Ireland’s most historic clubs drop out of the Premier Division.

The league needs Dundalk to be in it. Look at their history, the honours they’ve won. They’re one of the most successful teams in Ireland so it would be a blow to see them drop into the First Division, especially with the uncertainty in the league at the moment.

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Niall Kelly

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