Champion sheepdog handler Shannon eyes ‘Countryfile’ title

Magilligan teenager Shannon Conn will be whistling for success this weekend when she competes for BBC Countryfile’s version of ‘One Man and his Dog’.

The 13-year-old Limavady High School student admits “dogs are my life”, so appearing on national television and doing what she loves with her Border Collie dog Bill is a dream come true.

Shannon Conn and her dad Loughlin with dogs Bill and Harry. INLV4015-021KDR

Shannon Conn and her dad Loughlin with dogs Bill and Harry. INLV4015-021KDR

Shannon is through to the final of the competition. She is competing for Ireland with teammate John Maginn.

“I was really pleased to get through to the final, but I was really nervous too,” said Shannon, who has been working with her sheep dogs Harry and Bill since she was 10.

“It’s an experience, put it that way,” says Shannon of working with dogs, laughing.

“Some days they’re really good and the next they just don’t listen.”

Shannon Conn with her dogs, Bill and Harry. INLV4015-013KDR

Shannon Conn with her dogs, Bill and Harry. INLV4015-013KDR

The dog competing with Shannon on Countryfile is Bill, who turned nine earlier in September.

“Bill is a really good dog because he listens, although sometimes he has ideas of his own,” says Shannon.

Once home from school, Shannon says she can’t wait to get out into the field.

“When I come home from school I just have to get the dogs out,” says Shannon.

“Dogs are my life, basically. Countryfile is a pretty big deal, a great experience. It means people will see me working with Bill, and they’ll see how good a dog he is and show what we do. This has been the highlight of my life so far and I hope it continues. It has been brilliant.”

Shannon, a champion dog handler, has competed for Ireland in the Irish National Sheepdog trials for the last three years and last year won the young handler title. She has rounded up titles at competitions in Scotland and Wales.

During her time with the Countryfile crew, Shannon made sure to do her bit for tourism.

“I met Adam (Henson) and he was lovely and I was telling him about Binevenagh and the Blue Flag beach at Benone. He was great,” she said.

Proud dad, Loughlin is thrilled with his daughter’s success.

“At 13 years of age it’s an achievement what she has done. It’s very hard and, in Ireland, we have nearly the top class sheep dogs in the world and Shannon is giving it her best. There are days she can come out on top,” said Loughlin.

Loughlin represented Ireland at this year’s international, which he described as an honour. He said competing with Shannon on the team “made it extra special”.

While the area has been used for filming in the global hit HBO series, ‘Games of Thrones’, Loughlin said Shannon’s appearance on Countryfile is also great for the area.

“It’s nice to have that bit of activity about here. People are all asking about her and I know they’ll be watching on Sunday,” he added.

Countryfile airs on BBC 1 at 7pm on Sunday.