Having been with Chris Shields as firstly his girlfriend, then fiancée and now wife for the best part of his time with Dundalk, Shauna Shields is well used at this stage to being called a WAG.
However, she told The Argus ahead of this Sunday’s FAI Cup final that the life of a League of Ireland footballer’s wife is not as glamorous as it is made out to be.
“Quite a few people say to me about being a WAG but as I always say, I might have the title but I don’t have the lifestyle,” she laughed.
“I’m not exactly Coleen Rooney but I don’t really mind. It’s just a bit of a laugh.”
The couple first met while Shauna was on holiday with friends in Gran Canaria in 2011. At the time Shields – who is Dundalk’s joint longest serving player along with John Mountney – was on the books of Bray Wanderers but he was playing with Dundalk and captaining the side when the pair eventually got together the following summer.
That season would see the Lilywhites only survive in the Premier Division courtesy of a play-off victory over Waterford but thankfully these days results are a lot better.
“We started going out half way through his first season at Dundalk and they were losing all the time,” Shauna recalled.
“I went to my first couple of games and he would have been storming off the pitch at the end and punching the tunnel and things like that so I just thought Oh God. They got to a Cup semi-final that year and lost it so it was just the nail in the coffin really for that year but everything was kind of on the up then the following year.”
These days the couple live in Bangor, which allows Shauna to avoid much of the disappointment her husband experiences when Dundalk lose a game.
“I’m lucky enough because they’re usually in the morning after a match so he stays away on a match night so that’s kind of good because I don’t have to deal with him because his form is awful whenever they lose.
“He has been in terrible form the last couple of Friday nights (after defeats to Bohs and Cork City).
“He barely even wanted to send a text after a game. He’s always just miserable, especially when he’s playing but thankfully there is more good times than bad.”
Shauna said the hardest part about dating a footballer is the sacrifices you have to make. She has had to attend numerous family events on her own this year due to his involvement with the club while trips away for training camps and Europe also mean he misses weeks at home throughout the year.
“It can be hard,” she said.
“I’ve been that used to the team going away even when it has just been Chris and I. You kind of get used to it. It has become such a norm now that they go away in January and June. It’s more awkward when things are changed at the last minute and it’s hard too when there are family events like weddings.
“My uncle got married last Friday and I was saying to Chris would you not go seeing as you’ve already won the league but he said he wouldn’t even ask, that it wasn’t professional. It’s things like that that are the toughest, when he’s missing out on family or friends’ events. I’ve had two friends get married this year and I’ve had to go to their weddings on my own as well so that’s tough.
“Evie, our daughter, doesn’t really get impacted because she’s so young. She’s only just one but I’m sure when she’s got her own things going on like concerts or whatever it might be more difficult.
“He’s obviously been nominated for Team of the Year and the awards are on the same night as my best friend’s 30th so he’s going to Dublin instead of coming out in Belfast for her birthday. Football just takes priority I guess.”
There are upsides, of course, and Shauna says the FAI Cup final is one of the best days out for the wives and girlfriends of the players.
“It’s an amazing day. I can’t think off the top of my head now how many Chris has been in but last year was the only year I haven’t got to go because Evie, our daughter, was only about 10 days old at the time so I was at home with her and watched it on the TV.
“It was just surreal so I’m even more excited for it this year. It’s just a great day and then back to Dundalk hopefully to celebrate. The club are great because they’ve always organised a function room in a hotel or whatever. It’s better because you get to celebrate it a bit more with them. It’s a long year for us as well. We have to put up with all the lack of nights out and this and that so it’s a more special day and special night afterwards.”
Shauna said she would love a family snap of them with daughter Evie in the Cup.
“It would be really lovely,” she said.
“That’s one thing that I felt like I did miss out on last year. Because she was so small it was just too far to take her but when I saw the picture of Dane’s wee one Georgia in the Cup last year it definitely made me a wee bit upset and a bit jealous. I’d love that and there’s so many of the lads who have had babies in the last year as well that it would be lovely to get all the dads and the kids.”
While Chris is adored by Dundalk fans, it’s not for his goalscoring prowess that he is loved. While the pair have been together over seven years, Shauna said she had never seen her husband score in the flesh.
“I finally seen him score on TV last year against Cork but the only goal I’ve ever actually seen him score was in the EA Sports Cup penalty shoot-out this year. That was the first. Hopefully it’s a good omen for him scoring in finals,” she laughed.
Shauna revealed that the other wives and girlfriends are all part of a WhatsApp group where they discuss everything from how games are going to what will be worn to days out like the Cup final.
“Whenever new players come their girlfriends are welcomed in. There have been girls in the past who would say we can’t believe how close everyone is. We have a girls’ group WhatsApp where we’d all chat and plan to meet up either before or after a game.
“There’s lots of talk at the moment about who is wearing what to the Cup final and have you got a dress for that night. It’s all things like that but it’s great and I think it’s great for the lads as well because it means if we are on a night out they can go and have their craic and we’re all fine. We just get along with each other and don’t need to cling to the boys.
“Some of us have been around for so long as well that we’ve all been at each other’s weddings and we’ve celebrated with each other when other girls have had babies. It’s a great atmosphere really,” she said.
While the debate over what the partners will wear rages, there’s only one thing that the couple’s daughter Evie – who turned one last Sunday – will have on her on Cup final day – her daddy’s replica shirt.
“David Minto did a jersey for all the babies and he got her a jersey last year when she was born and it was a size six to nine months but she’s actually a small baby so it still fits her so she’ll be wearing the same one that was draped over her when she was in her Moses’ basket when she was 10 days old,” Shauna revealed.
“Hopefully that brings a bit of luck as well. She wears that jersey every match day usually and Chris only told me at the weekend that every domestic game that she has wore it and they’ve played they have won but last Friday (for the Cork game) we were at my uncle’s wedding and she didn’t have it on and they lost to Cork so he’s pretty superstitious about that one,” she said.
Here’s hoping Evie brings her daddy all the luck in the world on Sunday and the Shields family get to celebrate a big win in style.