Conor Shaughnessy: Beating Hibs was end to perfect day with Hearts '“ and convinced me to sign
A critical few hours in Edinburgh on December 29 convinced Conor Shaughnessy he had to reject interest from English clubs and join Hearts on loan.
The Leeds United defender was shown around Riccarton and Tynecastle Park and also spoke at length with manager Craig Levein that morning. Then he travelled to Easter Road and saw Hearts beat Hibs. Job done.
Shaugnessy completed his six-month loan deal on Monday and flew to Spain with Hearts on Tuesday. He is revelling in the chance to augment his senior football experience in the Scottish league having picked probably the perfect day to suss out a prospective new club.
“There was interest from two clubs in League One in England as well as Hearts,” revealed the 22-year-old. “I came up to watch the Hibs game and I made the decision after that. On the morning of that game I had a good meeting with the manager. I was shown the training facilities and the stadium and that convinced me that it was the right move for me.
“I had a really good conversation and felt that I had a real connection with the manager. I got a real understanding of what he wanted from me and where I would fit into the team. It was just the way I was treated by Hearts which made it a very easy decision in the end. This is a massive club into the bargain.”
He also has previous experience of Tynecastle since elder brother, Joe, plays for St Johnstone. “I was at a game to watch my brother play against Hearts at Tynecastle a couple of years ago. I think Hearts won that day and I did give him a bit of abuse,” laughed the younger sibling.
“That is the only time I have been there. The atmosphere inside Tynecastle is really good and I am looking forward to playing in front of the supporters. I managed to see the passion of the fans at Easter Road that day.”
Shaughnessy will have plenty opportunity to reacquaint himself with Hearts’ home later this month. The club’s next three fixtures are all in Gorgie, starting with Livingston in the Scottish Cup on Sunday, January 20. Then Dundee visit in midweek followed by St Johnstone – both on Premiership business – three days later.
The last of those three encounters is eagerly anticipated by all members of the Shaughnessy family. “I spoke to my brother about this switch to Hearts,” explained Conor. “He really encouraged it and he told me it would be a great move for me.
“He knows what is important to me now in my career and that is getting game time and playing as many matches as possible. This is a really good level to be playing at. I think I play against him in my third game in and there is a lot of family coming over for that one.
“I have never played with or against my brother as he is four years older. It makes it all the more interesting. Of course, I will kick him and he will probably kick me. There will be no holding back that’s for sure.”
Again a broad smile etches itself across the young Irishman’s face. He already looks settled in his new surroundings and has no regrets about spurning those opportunities in England’s third tier.
The feeling that Scottish football is on the up once again is detectable south of the border. Shaughnessy picked up on it even before first learning of Hearts’ interest in him back in November.
Watching household names from the Premier League defect to continue their careers north of the Border left him intrigued to see what all the fuss is about.
“In the last few years Scottish football has taken off,” said the centre-back. “You had Brendan Rodgers going to Celtic and now Steven Gerrard is the manager of Rangers. Gerrard coming up was a massive signing.
“There have been a few great signings of late in Scotland. There has been more interest down south in the Scottish game with the players the league is attracting as people in England now want to see how they are doing. That makes the league more competitive.
“The Scottish league is building itself back up to what it was before, I guess. It has a much higher profile now and there are lot more higher profile games. It is a great place to be at the minute. That was an added attraction coming here. You are being watched more and it brings the standard up with the quality signings teams are making. It will be a right good test for me and I am looking forward to it.”