Midfield marshal Damien Duff gets an endurance lesson from troops in Lebanon
AFTER a tough season in the Premiership and an even tougher few weeks at Euro 2012, Damien Duff was probably entitled to a rest for what's left of the summer.
But instead, yesterday he found himself facing what he called the toughest physical challenge he had ever undertaken.
"I like to think I am a fit lad. But seeing me after that, I am in bits," the Fulham star admitted.
Mr Duff had just completed the Infantry Run, a test of endurance undertaken by teams from the IrishFinn battalion of peacekeepers, based in Tibnin in south Lebanon.
The test included a 3km run, pushing an armoured van up a hill, carrying a stretcher with a weight, and running with heavy water canisters in each hand.
Despite the difficulty, the 33-year-old said he was disappointed his team had not won the competition around Camp Shamrock.
"It was tough. Fair play to the lads, I don't know how they do it," he told the Irish Independent. He felt the mental aspect was most challenging.
"Because of the heat, you just want to stop and go and have a cold shower and a few bottles of water.
"Its amazing the spirit and camaraderie between the lads. They all keep pushing each other and just keep you going. If you could bottle what they have and sell it to football clubs, you'd make a fortune."
Mr Duff has been in the Lebanon for the past few days as part of a morale-boosting exercise.
He met every soldier in Camp Shamrock and posed for photographs with them, toured the outposts, laid a wreath at the memorial to their fallen comrades, called into the local orphanage and joined in fun events organised for the evenings.
And his efforts were welcomed by battalion commander, Lieut Col Brian Monahan. The interaction between Mr Duff and the troops had been fabulous and a lot of that was down to the player's "bubbly personality", he said.
"As an ambassador for the Irish soccer team, he is absolutely incredible," the commander added.
"There are no airs or graces about him. I would love to have Damien Duff in the 106th IrishFinn battalion."