Deadly Duffus eyes progress for Everton and Ireland after recovery
Published 07/10/2016 | 02:30
At a time when Ireland are shorn of strikers and desperate to enlist Scott Hogan, Everton's Courtney Duffus can handle the expectation of being touted as a contender for senior honours from the Under-21s.
The 20-year-old will this evening lead the line in the concluding UEFA qualifier against Serbia at the Waterford RSC (5.45pm) for his third cap, just a month after making his international debut.
Such is the scarcity of options available up front to Martin O'Neill that Duffus, still without a first-team appearance for the Toffees, is considered senior potential.
While Hogan dithers about his international allegiance and Joe Mason is reportedly less than fully committed to the cause, expanding the scoping exercise to rookies is a necessity.
Everton swooped to sign Duffus when he was 16 and weren't long about recruiting his brother Tyrone a couple of years later and relocating them from Cheltenham to Merseyside.
Both had the option of representing their homeland of England or Jamaica but settled on Ireland, mainly through the influence during their upbringing of Mary Lodge, their late grandmother originally from Limerick.
Making that choice was one thing but making his debut was another for Courtney, as a serious knee injury wiped the best part of a year off his career. The tall front man regained his fitness after Christmas and impressed enough for Everton to earn the Barclays Under-21 Player of the Month in March.
For all the joy at the end of a long road back, Duffus isn't looking too far ahead with his career objectives.
"Seamus Coleman at Everton is always asking me about how I'm getting on with Ireland and I would like one day to be in the full squad," he says.
"But I know that things can change very quickly in football. I was about to come off the bench and make my first-team debut for Everton away to Young Boys in Switzerland and then John Stones got sent off.
"A few weeks later, I suffered an anterior ligament injury and was out for a long time."
Meanwhile, Ireland's Under-19s are on course to progress from their UEFA first phase qualification series after beating hosts Albania in yesterday's group opener.
Up against a tough, physical Albanian side, Tom Mohan's teens were technically superior and created the better chances but needed a penalty from Connor Ronan two minutes before half-time to secure the points.