Sunday 23 July 2017

'The doctor said 'We could lose him' – Parents of Ireland star Shane Duffy describe moment he almost died on pitch

Shane Duffy, inset, his parents Siobhan and Brian Duffy in Lille
Shane Duffy, inset, his parents Siobhan and Brian Duffy in Lille
Siobhan and Brian Duffy in Lille, France. Picture: Mark McConville
Cathal McMahon

Cathal McMahon

The parents of rising Irish star Shane Duffy have spoken for the first time about the moment he almost died on the pitch after a "freak accident".

The 24-year-old defender was overjoyed when he was selected for the 23-man Irish squad for Euro 2016 – not least because he is lucky to be alive at all.

Duffy needed life-saving surgery on a lacerated liver in May 2010 after a collision in a training game between Ireland and the national amateur side in Malahide.

The quick thinking of Dr Alan Byrne proved vital as Duffy was raced to hospital for emergency surgery.

It is a story that Duffy, from Co Derry, cannot recall but it is etched on the memory of his father Brian who witnessed the entire incident.

“It's probably affected us more than Shane. Shane has moved on from this. We'll always remember it.”

Standing outside the Tír na nÓg bar in Lille there is nothing to distinguish Siobhan and Brian Duffy from the 200 other green clad fans drinking and chatting about the game.

One Dublin supporter, unaware of who they are, sparks up a conversation about Martin O'Neill's team selection for tomorrow's game.

Republic of Ireland's Shane Duffy arriving for a press conference in Versailles, Paris, France. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland's Shane Duffy arriving for a press conference in Versailles, Paris, France. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile

“I'd love to see Duffy start,” the fan says.

“So would I,” says Brian, “he's my son”. The response triggers a wave of laughter followed by a rousing rendition of 'Come on you boys in green'.

It's the moments like this that the couple thought impossible six years ago.

Brian was at the training game when Duffy was injured in a freak accident.

Shane Duffy reacts after accidental clash with Republic of Ireland Amateurs goalkeeper Adrian Walsh which resulted in Duffy being brought to hospital
Shane Duffy reacts after accidental clash with Republic of Ireland Amateurs goalkeeper Adrian Walsh which resulted in Duffy being brought to hospital

“A corner was coming in and the goalkeeper came out with his two knees. It was a freak accident, he actually nipped the artery going into his liver.

“People said to me there must have been blood everywhere. But there wasn't, it was all inside him.

“Three quarters of his blood was inside him.”

Team doctors knew instantly that this was a serious injury and paramedics were called to the scene.

“I was in the ambulance with him and he was going grey. We got him to the Mater hospital."

Brian continued: “While Shane was in surgery the Irish team doctor came out and said 'We could lose him'.”

Mum Siobhan was in Derry at the time and she got the call to explain that there had been an accident.

“It was just a blur, I got the phone call that he wasn't going to make it. It was just the worst experience of my life.”

Incredibly surgeon Dr Gerard McEntee was able to repair Shane's liver and the centre back player made a full recovery. He has gone on to cement his place at the heart of the Blackburn defence.

In late May the player secured another major career milestone when he was selected to travel to France for Euro 2016.

Republic of Ireland's Shane Duffy
Republic of Ireland's Shane Duffy

Brian explained that that Shane's inclusion in the 23-man-squad was the real goal and anything after is a huge bonus.

He described how they found out the news: “That night we got a text with two words: 'I'm in'.

“You can imagine what we were like in the house, neighbours came in and we had flags. It was just a matter of getting him in there.

“I wanted him in there because it was six years ago in May that we almost lost him when he was along with Trapattoni's team.

“To see him walking up those steps going to the Euros, it was a big occassion. It was a huge thing.”

Duffy has been tipped to play against Italy but sources say Richard Keogh will most likely start if Martin O'Neill opts to drop Ciaran Clark.

Dad Brian said he would love to see his son get a run out but won't be upset if he doesn't.

“We were talking to Shane on the phone and he is loving every minute of it. The experience has been amazing. He's a Championship player at the minute and he is along with Premier League players and he's just loving every minute of it.

“We cannot complain. People are saying that he should play. I want him to enjoy this, take it all on board and move on from there.

“Every day is a bonus for us.”

His mother is not so diplomatic in her response when asked how she thought Ireland's clash with Italy would pan out.

“If Shane starts one nil. A clean sheet and Shane to go up and score the winner,” she predicted.

“We don't look back, we look forward. We're happy, future captain of Ireland, you heard it first here.

“I'm not being biased but he is a real prospect for the future.”

The couple have been mixing with the Irish fans in the bars and on the streets and they say that this is the best way to enjoy the tournament.

“If Shane wasn't involved we would be here involved in this anyway. We have supported Ireland all our lives. We are not going to give up now. It's been fantastic.”

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