Dundalk FC midfielder Chris Shields. (Pic: Ciarán Culligan)
Dundalk FC midfielder Chris Shields has encouraged the club’s fans to get behind the team as they bid to land a fourth SSE Airtricity League Premier Division crown in five seasons.
Stephen Kenny’s men visit the Carlisle Grounds to face Bray Wanderers on Friday night, where a victory would move them a point clear of Cork City at the league’s summit.
Indeed, the maximum return would put the Lilywhites on 67 points after 27 matches, one point better off than they were in the record-breaking, title-winning campaign of 2015.
“You never have nights like you do when you win leagues, it’s indescribable,” Shields told The Democrat.
“And then in the cup, we’ve a good cup record and lost in the last two finals by the skin of our teeth. We want to get back there and put that right.
“Because we’ve had success in Europe before, people get a taste for it and so do we, so to go out in the second round, and in the manner we did (against AEK Larnaca) is quite disappointing. But, for us, this year, the league has to be the main thing and I think that’s what people really need to get behind.
“We can feed off the crowd,” he added.
“I was sitting on the bench (against Cobh, on Friday night) and I could hear everything; one or two stray passes and everything is exaggerated. I think we really need the crowd for the next 10 weeks, forget Europe, this is the biggest part of the season and right through to October.”
The club’s travelling contingent to Bray is always a hearty one and Shields hopes that will continue into this week’s clash.
“We love the travelling support and when it’s packed in Oriel Park. We feed off that.
“I know for the cup games, it’s very hard because season tickets aren’t included and parents bring their kids, etc. That’s totally understandable because it’s hard on the pocket, but when people are in the ground we really do feed off the support and that can sometimes go awry because maybe fans are a bit too used to us playing so well.
“When things aren’t going well, that’s when we really do need the support and we really do appreciate that.
“(To Bray) we always bring a great travelling support.”
The midfielder, who came second in the SWAI Player of the Month vote for July, admitted that having a week to prepare for the clash with Wanderers is a welcome one, both following and ahead of another hectic run.
Indeed, the clash with Wanderers is the first of five matches in 14 days.
“We know we’re out of Europe so we’ll fully focus on the league and cup now.
“The coming weeks bring five games in 14 days, but now we have that schedule in front of us to fully focus on and hopefully thrive in those conditions. We tend to, it generally works well for us.”