'˜Strong and commanding' - Leeds expert gives lowdown on Hearts new boy Conor Shaughnessy

Hearts have signed Conor Shaughnessy from Leeds United on loan. Joel Sked spoke to Joe Urquhart, football writer for the Yorkshire Evening Post, about the defender.

Tuesday, 8th January 2019, 8:16 am
Updated Tuesday, 8th January 2019, 10:19 am

Hearts have moved quickly to replace centre-back Jimmy Dunne who has returned to Burnley following the expiry of his loan deal.

Fellow Irishman Conor Shaughnessy has completed a six-month loan move to Hearts, offering further depth at centre-back.

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Hearts' Conor Shaughnessy signed on loan from Leeds United. Picture: SNS/Ross Parker
Hearts' Conor Shaughnessy signed on loan from Leeds United. Picture: SNS/Ross Parker

A year older than Dunne, Shaughnessy shares similar qualities to his fellow countryman, especially his ability in the air.

“He is a strong and commanding player that won’t back down from a physical challenge,” Joe Urquhart, football writer for the Yorkshire Evening Post, told the Evening News.

“Aerially he is a dominating player and he stands at well over six foot.

“Shaughnessy has also shown to have good ability with his feet when required to play in Marcelo Bielsa’s passing system.

“A big presence at the centre of defence can be expected, but pace could be an issue as his positioning is sometimes found wanting.

He added: “He has also captained the development squad on a number occasions and has displayed some strong leadership qualities on the pitch.”

The 22-year-old also provides Hearts with an option in the midfield, having started his career in a more advanced role before being switched to defence under former Leeds manager Thomas Christiansen due to injury issues in the squad.

Urquhart said: “He was thrust into action as cover for injuries in defence last season initially, which appears a more natural position for him, before moving forward once those players returned to action.

“The centre of defence is somewhere where he has played the far better of his football since he joined the club, but he can if required sit in front of the back four as a deep-lying midfielder.”

Shaughnessy, who has been capped by Ireland at every level up to under-21 with Ireland, was signed on a free following his release from Reading in 2016 and handed a four-year contract in September 2017.

Since then, however, his Leeds career has been stop-start.

Urquhart explained: “There was a lot of promise for Shaughnessy when he initially signed for the club and after a year in the development team he was handed his first opportunity by former manager Thomas Christiansen in August 2017.

“Among Leeds fans there is an air of disappointment that he hasn’t quite fulfilled his potential at Elland Road as yet, but there have been a few external factors. He picked up an injury in January last year which ruled him out for the season having made 14 appearances before Christiansen, someone who favoured him, was sacked.

“Successor Paul Heckingbottom was also never able to call upon his services during his short tenure due to the ankle issue.

“There was hope at the start of the current season after Marcelo Bielsa name-checked him in one of his early press conferences believing he was going to play a role as one of the younger members of his squad.

“He was handed an opportunity in the League Cup in August against Preston North End but had somewhat of a nightmare display. Shaughnessy gave a penalty away after just two minutes before he was replaced at half-time following a poor showing as North End left with a 2-0 win.

“A number of niggling injuries have seen his chances limited over the last few months but he has seen a lot of action in the Whites’ development squad where he has impressed.”

A lack of luck with injuries has meant that he has made just 15 first-team appearances and is in need of regular football.

“His development also hasn’t been aided by the chopping and changing of managers at Elland Road since his arrival and a loan move seems like the perfect chance for him to finally nail down some game time and really fulfil his early promise,” Urquhart said.

“There have been glimpses of why Leeds brought him to the club but due to limited chances he is yet to display it on a consistent basis. Ultimately, he just hasn’t been on the pitch long enough to make an impact at Elland Road.

“The need for a loan move is evident, with Shaughnessy having now been overtaken in the pecking order by Finnish defender Aapo Halme in the Leeds squad and senior minutes are a must with it being a crucial period in his career and development.”

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