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Shields taking hard road to win back his Armagh place

 

By John Campbell

Armagh defender Mark Shields has already logged up thousands of miles in his bid to clinch a starting place in the team for the Ulster Championship quarter-final against Down at Pairc Esler, Newry on Sunday.

Whitecross clubman Shields is studying at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin and has been on placement recently at Waterford University Hospital.

This entails a six-hour round trip twice weekly to attend squad training in Armagh, while he must also fit in additional gym sessions when time permits.

Shields is particularly anxious to make the cut with the Orchard county as he played in just two league matches before injury truncated his involvement in the competition.

"I am undertaking a physiotherapy course and have been travelling from Waterford to Armagh lately," explains Shields.

"I thought it was bad having to travel from Dublin but, although Waterford means a lot more miles, I am very focused on winning a place in the Armagh team for the Ulster Championship.

"It's a six-hour round trip from Waterford but I have to accept this and take it in my stride. I was injured on the Thursday before we played Louth and I have not played for Armagh since then. It seems to have taken me ages to get over the injury.

"Obviously other guys have been doing well in the team since then but I have set my heart on winning my place back.

"I have to admit that I was heartbroken to miss most of the league because I felt I had been playing well up until I got injured."

It was a Grade Two calf injury that disrupted Shields' season but he is totally focused on donning the Armagh jersey again on Sunday.

"I'm raring to go," stresses Shields. "To play against Down would be a dream come true for me. The physios have been great, I have been getting terrific encouragement and it's fingers crossed now."

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