“No one wants to miss a game like that”

By Stephen Leonard

AFTER having hit the winning penalty that saw Dundalk edge out Sheriff Tiraspol in the Europa League qualifiers in Moldova last week, Chris Shields will now have to watch from the sidelines as the Lilywhiles bid to take the final step on the road to the groups stages of the competition.

Indeed the Clondalkin man has been suspended for tonight’s all-important play-off against  Faroese outfit KÍ Klaksvik at the Aviva Stadium.

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Chris Shields

“I can’t affect anything this week so I’ll just try and be a positive presence around the lads and remind them of how good they are” Shields told The Echo.

“It’s tough. No one wants to miss a game like that, but I’ve always said to the players the no one man has ever qualified for the Europa League group stages and I’m sure that the players will step up and do it and I’ll be cheering them on from the sidelines.”

Shields, one of Dundalks most experienced and decorated campaigners, held his nerve to fire home the decisive spotkick in last week’s nailbiting shootout in Moldova which had ended all square at 1-1.

“It was brilliant especially after the recent turmoil with exiting the Champions League qualifiers the way we did, our poor run in the league and the change of manager.

“To win back-to-back games in the Europa League was great and in such a dramatic way. They [Sheriff Tiraspol] are a good side with more European pedigree than most people realise.

“I thought we were the better team to be honest. Towards the end they did have a lot of the ball, but that’s what’d you expect from the home team. We defended very well” he said.

Having now seen off the challenge of both Inter Club d'Escalades and Tiraspol on the road, Shields and his team mates are welcoming the prospect of bidding to take the final step on the road to the Europa League group stages in Ireland, albeit not at Oriel Park.

“It’s only a short trip to Dublin for us and the Aviva Stadium is a venue we’re familiar with having played five cup finals in a row and a Champions League qualifying game. So not having to travel and will be a big advantage.

“Since 2016 we’ve been looking to get back in to the group stages and we’ve fallen flat and this draw is perhaps our best chance of getting there in a number of years.”

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