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Shields' Irish eyes are smiling after call-up

PUBLISHED: 10:21 30 May 2013 | UPDATED: 10:34 30 May 2013

Sean Shields will feature for Northern Ireland under-21s today as they face Cyprus in a European Championship qualifier. Pic: Dave Simpson/TGS

Sean Shields will feature for Northern Ireland under-21s today as they face Cyprus in a European Championship qualifier. Pic: Dave Simpson/TGS

Dave Simpson/TGSPHOTO c/o 27 Plaiters Way, Braintree, Essex, CM7 3LR - Editorial Use ONLY - FA Premier League and Football Leagu

Shields hoping international experience can push him into Dagenham & Redbridge boss Wayne Burnett’s first-team plans.

While most players are jetting off on summer holidays, there has been no time for Daggers youngster Sean Shields to relax – and the hard work has paid off after he was called up for Northern Ireland under-21s.

They face Cyprus in Nicosia today in a European Championship qualifier, and the 21-year-old could pick up his first cap if selected.

The former Spurs youngster heard about a possibility to play for Northern Ireland after the Irish FA got in contact with the Daggers in March and after a three-day training camp at the start of this month, Shields found out the good news.

Shields qualifies through his father, who was brought up in Ireland and it completes a whirlwind few months, having signed for the Daggers in January on a three-and-a-half year deal from non-league St Albans.

“It’s been a strange one really as my season has been extended by this great chance,” said Shields.

“Though the season has been over for most others, I’ve kept on working hard with training and fitness before the training camp, and over the last few weeks I’ve kept myself ticking over in preparation.

“At the trials I did really well and after speaking to the manager (Stephen Robinson), he said he was really impressed with me just before I left.

“I always thought there’d be a chance I would make the squad. I left in good spirits, but then when I heard the news officially it was a great feeling.”

Shields’ chances for Daggers squad last season were limited to just five minutes off the substitute’s bench against Morecambe back in January.

And though he would have loved more playing time, Shields always knew it was going to be a case of acclimatising to the professional game.

“When I first came in John (Still) said my first season would be about development and getting used to the club and integrated into the system,” he said. “I would’ve liked to have got a few more minutes, but I was pleased with how I got on in the reserve team games.

“Now it’s all about having a good pre-season, impressing Wayne and the rest of the team and kicking on next season.”

Shields believes international experience will be the perfect boost, and he hopes it can be the springboard to launch him into the Daggers side come the start of the new League Two season in August.

He added: “Hopefully I can do well when I am out in Cyprus, leave a lasting impression and it will give me the confidence to go into a hard pre-season with Darren, Warren and Wayne and begin to show the Daggers fans what I am about next season.”

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