The reply? “F*** that, I know I’m better than these *****.”
Shields played down in Killarney that day as if he’d been playing for Cork for years and he’s basically been playing the same game over and over in the decade since just in different ways — doing the right thing in possession, bossing his one-v-one battle, looking to influence the game positively, being physically and technically efficient, just generally being better than his opponent like he knew he was back then.
Our main memory from his performance in the final that year is Benny Coulter’s growing realisation that he just couldn’t create the space to influence the game. Shields could do the full-length blocks, he could get a hand in to disrupt ball, he could grapple for 50-50 ball with any forward, but mostly he was clever positionally to fill spaces or shadow forwards and force them into areas where scoring wasn’t possible.
I remember him on Brian Hurley a few years ago in Bandon giving a masterclass in just shutting down a forward by denying him room to shoot.
When he came back from several months in Australian Rules, Shields carried a football around with him to get used to the feeling of the gaelic football again, just to get the time away and the different ball out of his system.
Cork football doesn’t have that anymore and it won’t feel right for an age.