Belfast Telegraph

Shea geared up for Cup clash

By Stuart McKinley

If Armagh City are going to reach the quarter-finals of the Irish Cup, they will need plenty of drive. They will most likely have to hit top gear too if they are to pull off a shock and knock 42-times winners Linfield out of this season's competition.

The good news for the Championship 1 side is that they have the perfect man for all that in much-travelled striker Shea Campbell.

Now 34, Campbell was a Linfield player 11 years ago and spent most of his career in the top flight before work and family commitments saw him drop down the leagues.

Selling cars is his game now that his Premiership days are over, but Campbell is ready for one more big occasion when he steps out at Windsor Park today.

"I've been in the car sales business for about the last 10 years and it's gone well for me - it's still growing," he said.

"It got to the stage for me where it was difficult to fit everything in with work, a family and football.

"I couldn't commit to the training and I ended up in a rat race rushing between everything and being late for training all the time so in the end something had to give."

That meant playing football fell down his list of priorities. His love for the game hasn't waned, though, and the adrenalin is starting to pump again with his Windsor date looming.

"I had a good season at Annagh United last year, but I did think that my days of being involved in big games like this might have been a thing of the past," he said.

"This game has whetted the appetite again though and when I see the way the young boys have been in training I just want them to go and enjoy it.

"There is a belief in the squad that we can to Windsor and perform.

"Marty Rice is an attack-minded manager and I don't think he will change things against Linfield.

"We'll give it a go and see how we get on.

"I've been involved in big games and have great memories. Now it's about the young boys having their crack at it."

Those memories are still fresh in Campbell's mind. He was in the Linfield squad that won the inaugural Setanta Cup in 2005 and played on what has become known in Irish League circles as Morgan Day - when former Linfield striker Chris Morgan scored the winner for Glentoran in a Big Two match that effectively won the league for the east Belfast side. His time at Linfield was short-lived though, mostly down to how strong the competition for places was in a Blues team that was just about to begin a period of dominance in the mid-2000s.

"I remember that I'd played in a midweek Setanta Cup game - which I was actually surprised that I started in - and played well so kept my place for the game against Glentoran at The Oval on the Saturday," said Campbell.

"I remember sitting in the dressing room and there was a great noise coming from outside. The atmosphere was fantastic and even though we lost it's a day I'll never forget.

"To then go on and be part of the squad that won the Setanta Cup was unbelievable, but it was hard at Linfield because I was behind Glenn Ferguson and Peter Thompsson who were doing so well and scoring so many goals.

"I was competing with Davy Larmour for my 15 or 20 minutes off the bench.

"It was a great experience for me though, playing with those guys as well as the likes of Noel Bailie and Winkie Murphy."

After also playing for Glenavon, Cliftonville, Dungannon Swifts and Loughgall, Campbell has now returned to his spiritual home, with this being his fifth spell at Armagh.

"I've been at the club on and off since my younger days and I remember I scored 21 goals one season, finishing just behind Glenn Ferguson and Peter Thompson," said Campbell.

"Armagh has always been a great club, but there's never been much money around and when opportunities came to play in the Premier League week in, week out for good money it was hard for me to turn down."

Campbell's talent won him a Northern Ireland under-21 cap in his younger days. He also had trials with Tottenham Hotspur, Colchester and Oldham Athletic. He was also close to signing for Falkirk while playing for Ballymena United but the deal fell through.

Nowadays, when selling cars and spending time with his two young sons Robbie and Stefan isn't taking up his time, Campbell can be found at Drumbo Park, where his racing greyhounds have been enjoying a run of success.

"I've a few dogs and one of them, Catherines Drico, has done very well this year," said Campbell.

"I've a good trainer in Ronnie McKeown and it's something that I've been involved in most of my life and I get enjoyment out of."

Now Campbell is hoping that it's the underdogs who have their day today.

Belfast Telegraph


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