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Duff: Points the priority

WHAT'S seldom is nice and what's rare is even nicer.

Words with Damien Duff don't arrive very often so we take what we can get when the Duffer's firm resolve to say nothing at all cracks.

We all indulge his unwillingness to trade in clichés because he's the Duffer and, let's face it, Ireland's favourite professional footballer.

That's a big claim to make in company like Shay Given and Robbie Keane, but every mother in the country would love to see the Duffer married to a daughter if he wasn't already spoken for.

He looks fantastic at the moment; super-lean, super-fit and absolutely gagging to get at Croatia. Euro 2012 cannot come quick enough for him and he has virtually no interest in the fact that he is closing in on 100 caps.

If he plays against Hungary, Croatia and Spain, Italy is set up perfectly for his 100th cap, a great, great achievement for any player.

"People keep reminding me. I suppose when you get there and get close to it you want to get there, but I have never really been thinking about it to be honest.

"But yeah, nearing it, it would be a nice goal and a nice feat to do but points on the board are more important than caps.

"Look, I don't even want to talk about it. I want to get points on the board and get through and I want to do well," he added.

Duff took the day off with the rest of his squad mates but, typically, travelled to a different place than the rest of them -- or at least in his head.

Enjoy the day off?

"Yeah, just did a few of the sights of Rome."

You went to Rome?!

"Oh sorry, I'm day dreaming here! Yeah we just went there, lunch, dinner and did the sights and came home.

"A change of scene. It was beautiful. I'm always a fan of going to cities and taking in the sights and I'll definitely be coming back."

Translated, this mean that Duffer wandered around the hot spots in Florence and liked what he saw.

How about the famous Galleria degli Uffizi? "We got the outside of it, we saw the queue so we decided to turn around. We just saw the cathedral and a few other things, so it was nice.


"It was good to have a change of scenery and it's good for the mind, mentally and physically having a day off from training. It was nice. It freshens you up and we enjoyed it."

Duff has always been a sensitive soul but age has given him perspective and while he felt sad for Kevin Foley, he's certainly not hung up on it.

"Listen, that is never nice. It wasn't nice last week with Keith Fahey and the other day which was unfortunate.

"But that is part and parcel of squads getting picked for major championships. But we all felt for him and there is nothing more you can really say about it."

Training and preparation has been going well for everyone but Duff stands out every day. He is razor sharp and ultra-committed to the task at hand.

"Yeah, it's gone well. There are no real injury worries and everyone looks fit and sharp, so looking forward to it.

"I feel great. I feel better as the season has gone on. Thanks to the medical team at Fulham -- they are unbelievable -- I'm feeling younger."

Duff finds great comfort for the road ahead in the past and looks to previous tournament finals for a lead.

"We have always done well in major championships at senior level. The same if I go back to the Under-20 World Cup in my past experience.

"That's my line of thinking and hopefully we can carry on that trend."

And that was it. Duffer done and dusted and off to the team bus with a grin and a smile, his purgatory over.