Monday 27 February 2017

Duffy on mission to make fresh start

John Fallon

THOUGH events conspired against him last season, Ireland U-21 defender Shane Duffy wants tonight's friendly against Austria in Sligo (6.0) to mark a new beginning.

Facing into a campaign just three months after undergoing life-saving surgery for a lacerated liver sustained while playing a practice match for Giovanni Trapattoni's senior squad was always going to present challenges last season.

Still, the Everton centre-back was left disappointed that his loan spell at Burnley was restricted to just one outing. To compound matters, he was axed from the Irish U-19 squad that progressed all the way to the European Championship semi-finals last month. "It was a poor season for me and I want to have a better one -- starting with this U-21 game tonight," said the Derry-born 19-year-old, who angered Northern Ireland officials for switching to the Republic in February 2010.

"I didn't regain the fitness levels I had before the injury and my performances weren't good at all.

"Burnley was the right club to go on loan to, but maybe at the wrong time. I played the full match (against Ipswich) but didn't get in after that."

He added: "The Ireland U-19s turned out to be a real disappointment too. I don't think the manager (Paul Doolin) really fancied me. I felt I was playing well enough (to be picked) but he chooses the squad.

"I didn't even watch the European finals (on television). If I'm not there, I can't watch. But I knew most of the lads and I was delighted that they did so well at the finals."

With that chapter behind him, Duffy is looking upwards. Another loan move is being lined up from Goodison Park this week, probably for the season, and he's a firm favourite of Ireland U-21 boss Noel King.

"There's not much point in staying at Everton with four quality centre-backs ahead of me and the manager David Moyes wants me getting more experience.

"I made my Everton debut quite young (at 17) but a couple of games doesn't mean you've made it. I really need a full season of playing games to mature properly as a player."

This evening's game marks Ireland's final friendly before the 2013 UEFA qualifiers begin on September 1 against Hungary, also at the Showgrounds. They follow that opener up with a trip to Turkey five days later before meeting Liechtenstein and Italy either side of the new year.

King was forced to make two changes to his squad following the withdrawal of Adam Barton (Preston North End) and Sean Scannell (Crystal Palace). York City defender Lanre Oyebanjo has been added along with Aaron Greene of Sligo Rovers.

Daniel Kearns is the only fitness concern and the Dundalk winger will undergo a pre-match fitness test on his ankle injury.

Ireland (probable) -- McLoughlin (MK Dons); Connolly (Bolton), Duffy (Everton), Gunning (Blackburn), Stevens (Shamrock Rovers); Clifford (Chelsea), Kiernan (Wigan), Hendrick (Derby); Brady (Hull), Mason (Cardiff City), Doran (Inverness CT).

Irish Independent

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