Hearts’ new defender Conor Shaughnessy believes the club can help him earn a Republic of Ireland call-up to emulate previous loanee Jimmy Dunne.
The Leeds United centre-back signed a six-month loan agreement at Tynecastle on Monday before flying with the squad to their winter training camp in Spain.
He replaces Dunne, who was recalled by parent club Burnley and has now been loaned to Sunderland. Dunne’s performances in Scotland brought him his first full international call-up for the Republic last November.
As a fellow Under-21 internationalist, Shaughnessy hopes Hearts can help him realise the same dream with his country. “That is a massive thing for me and it happened for Jimmy when he was at Hearts. A call up to the Irish national squad is a bit of a dream for me,” he explained. “Hopefully signing for Hearts can help boost my chances of that happening.”
Shaughnessy admitted he has a considerable void to fill given the impression Dunne made in Edinburgh. The 21-year-old performed with assurance in 14 appearances and Hearts fans were disappointed he did not return.
“I have heard a lot about what Jimmy did here. I watched a few of his games and he will be a tough one to replace,” said Shaughnessy.
“I’ve never met Jimmy and we were never in the same Irish Under-21 squads. I am coming here and hopefully I can do a similar job. This was a great opportunity for Jimmy and also for me to develop my game all round. It is the next step that I need in my career at my age.It just shows that a young player can come in and make an impression in a short space of time. It has improved Jimmy and he is now looked upon as a more senior player after his spell at Hearts. Hopefully Jimmy can kick on from there and the same thing happens to me.”
A critical few hours in Edinburgh on 29 December convinced Shaughnessy to reject interest from English clubs and move to Hearts. He was shown around Riccarton and Tynecastle then went to Easter Road and saw Hearts defeat Hibs. Job done.
“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.