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duffy living for big time

IT'S BARELY two months since a freak accident in a training game in Dublin almost cost Everton man Shane Duffy his life as well as his career.

But thanks to an astonishingly rapid recovery, the Derry-born teenager is not only back to fitness but is dreaming of greatness. A trip to Dublin for last night's friendly international against Argentina, ahead of his return to full training with his club this morning, has strengthened his resolve to see his career peak.

The sight of Ireland team doctor Alan Byrne speaking to the media this week in relation to Giovanni Trapattoni's illness brought back memories of Byrne's last time to face the cameras, when he was thrust into the media spotlight to explain the near-fatal nature of a training-ground incident involving Duffy last May, when the player almost died following damage to his liver in a clash during that game.

It was widely acknowledged that, only for the immediate intervention of the FAI medical team, 18-year-old Duffy would not be alive today. However, the player says he's now keen to put the incident behind him and focus on his career again.

"Seeing the Aviva Stadium for the Argentina game last night was something else. It's really given me a taste of what could happen for me if things go well in my career again," Duffy told the Herald.

"Seeing it up close, you realise what a brilliant stadium it is and to think that I could play there for Ireland some day is really something for me to aim at now.

"The injury could have been very nasty for me, I know that, but I feel it has made me stronger as a person and it will make me better as a player too.

"I don't want the injury to be hanging over me for the rest of my career or my life. I can't live off that forever, I want to push it away and just be known for my football.

"I know what happened that day in Malahide. I know that I nearly died on that pitch, but I have to move on and not dwell on it. If I play well enough I'll be recognised for my football. My dream is to play in the Premier League for Everton and play for the Republic's senior team some day," he added.

He's now edged closer to that, having played for the Toffees' second string in a game against Sligo Rovers last weekend.

"It was great to get back playing in the game against Sligo last Sunday and I felt fine after it, there were no ill effects. The club gave me a few days off after the game so I had time back home in Derry with my family. I came up to Dublin last night for the Argentina game and this morning I was back over to England to report back to Everton first thing.

"I am not just ahead of schedule in terms of recovery, I am months ahead and I am delighted with that. I wanted to play again so much that I worked really, really hard to get there.

"In the first few days after the injury happened, all sorts went through my mind. I had no idea how long I would be out for. It seemed like it would be Christmas at least. But I felt strong in myself and I knew I could get back quicker.

"I have a full match under my belt now with the Everton reserves, in Sligo last week, and that will do me the world of good.

"I had only gone back training about 10 days ago. I played my first game three days after that. I only managed half an hour, but I got Sunday's game in against Sligo too.

"I don't know what will happen now in terms of the club. I don't know if David Moyes is aware of how I did in the game in Sligo. I had a few days off after that and he's a bit busy this week with the Premier League starting at the weekend.

"I will go in to Everton today and see what the club have to say but they seem happy with how I have done from what I have heard. I don't know yet if I will be training with the first team or the reserves. I'll speak to the people at the club when I get back there later today.



Road

"It's a long road ahead. I got a couple of games for the Everton first team last season in Europe and I want to play more in the coming season, but I'm not naïve enough to think that I'll walk straight into the Everton team. It might take time."

Duffy had a very successful season with Everton last term, making his debut for the Toffees in the Europa League and his form also saw the Derry man voted as the club's reserve team player of the year. There was international recognition, too, as Nigel Worthington called the player into the senior Northern Ireland squad for a friendly away to Italy but he was an unused sub, and that meant he could answer the call from the Republic when it came at the end of the season. Duffy won a place in Giovanni Trapattoni's senior squad for a training camp ahead of friendly games against Algeria and Paraguay.

A dispute between the FAI and IFA over the eligibility of players from the six counties to play for the Republic meant that Duffy could not take part in the games. However, then his world was turned upside down on a sunny Friday evening in Malahide when a clash with the opposition goalkeeper during a training match against the Irish Junior international XI left him close to death.

So Duffy was relieved to see a ruling by the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) last week which cleared the way for Belfast boy Daniel Kearns, ex-West Ham but now with Dundalk, to play for the Republic. "I know Daniel and that ruling is great for him. He's a great player and having the clearance for him to play for the Republic will make it OK for me to play," said Duffy.

The Derry man has been the subject of some vitriolic abuse from fans in the north over his decision to defect to the Republic but he's not bothered. "You get stick in football. This is something I just have to take. I push it away and won't let it bother me. I just want to play football and hopefully I can do that for the Republic soon."


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