My brush with death made me more determined, says Ireland newcomer Shane Duffy
EVERTON defender Shane Duffy's brush with death made him even more determined to succeed as a professional footballer.
The then 18-year-old underwent emergency surgery after suffering a freak injury to his liver while playing in a Republic of Ireland practice match in Malahide in May 2010.
Only the prompt attention of the Republic's medical team and the expertise of surgeons at Dublin's Mater Hospital prevented a tragedy.
Almost two years on, Duffy is in line to make his senior debut for Ireland in tomorrow's friendly clash with the Czech Republic at the Aviva Stadium. And, while he prefers not to dwell on the events of that day, it proved a pivotal point in his career.
Asked if he could have imagined how the period since would unfold, the 20-year-old said: "You do always hope so.
"I always hoped that I could still play football after, and I still did. I believed in myself.
"But that's two years ago and I don't really like talking about it because it's a low point in my career.
"But it has made me stronger and more mature. Hopefully it will never happen to anyone again."
Duffy faced a lengthy period of recovery, but having been given a clean bill of health, he has emerged as a first-team player at Goodison Park following a successful loan spell at League One Scunthorpe earlier this season.
However, he admits his elevation to the senior squad came as a shock.
He said: "It's happened so quickly. I was just spending Christmas on my own at Scunthorpe and then a week later, I'm playing at Villa Park. Football is crazy.
"And then a month later, I am sitting in the Irish squad. Words can't describe how proud and happy I am, and hopefully, I can get better."
Duffy, who like Sunderland winger James McClean, is a native of Derry, and manager Giovanni Trapattoni has indicated that the pair will be used against the Czechs.
McClean's rise since his £350,000 summer move to Wearside from Derry City, has been little short of meteoric, but Duffy is not surprised.
He said: "I have known he has had it in his locker since the day I met him. James is a terrific player.
"Everyone can see it now because he is on the TV and everyone is seeing him."
Both Duffy and McClean were born in Northern Ireland, but have opted to play for the Republic under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, although their respective decisions have attracted abuse from some.
Duffy said: "You get it every day - I get it every day. It's just one of those things I have learned and one of those things you move on from.
"It's the best decision I have made in my career. I'm not being disrespectful to Northern Ireland, but playing for the Republic of Ireland, it's my country and I am proud to play for it, honoured even to be picked for the squad, so I can't ask any more."