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'I was given my 100th cap at a Wetherspoons in Heathrow'

TIMES change, but Duffer stays the same.

A year ago, Damien Duff was one of the senior players in an Ireland side which headed, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, into the European Championship finals. Now he's merely an ex-international, spending yesterday – the day of a World Cup qualifier at home to the Faroe Islands – in Dublin as a free man with free time, using that time to publicise a charity drive for Heart Children Ireland, an issue close to his own family.

But it's the same old Duffer, un-fussed and unfazed. He was asked about the occasion of his 100th cap, which came in the final game of Euro 2012, that 2-0 loss to Italy.

In stark contrast with the pomp and ceremony which came with Ashley Cole getting his 100th cap for England against Ireland at Wembley last week, all gilt-edges and fancy presentation cases, the handover of the landmark cap to Duffer was not so ostentatious.

"Funny enough, Roy Hodgson rang me two weeks ago, I think he must have met John Delaney somewhere and he offered me to get my 100th cap presented to me on the pitch at Wembley against Ireland last week," said Duff.

"But I was like, 'Gaffer – I still call him 'gaffer' – no chance, you must know me by now, it's not going to happen'. As much as it would be something to look back on, it wasn't for me," added Duff, explaining how the 100th cap came into his hands.

"I got it in a different way rather than in front of 80,000 at Wembley. I bumped into John Delaney in a pub in Heathrow Airport and he said, 'F****** hell Duffer, funny I should bump into you'. So I had a pint of shandy looking at my 100th cap, some way to bow out. He (Delaney) had the cap with him, he was supposed to meet me in London, but he never tracked me down, so I bumped into him in what I think was a Wetherspoons in Heathrow.

"I'm a classy type of guy and that was my 100th cap, it was about six months ago. I was with my dad and the two of us were given the cap in a Wetherspoons in Heathrow. But I prefer it that way," he added with a smile.


Even the fact that Ireland were playing a World Cup game on the day he spoke in Dublin, there was no hint of regret from Duff, no suggestion that he wants to come back for another bite of glory.

"I heard there was bits about me coming back out of retirement, but it was all nonsense. When you retire, I think you should stay that way," he said.

"It was just that I've had me lash at it and it was time to move aside, and 'anyone else who wants a go, there you go'. There was no real reason, no family reasons, not body-wise or anything, I still feel good. I just felt deep down in me gut, and you have to listen to that, that it was time to move on.

"I was prepared when I finished, I knew deep down it was the right time, so I can't really say when I'm watching the games, 'Yeah, I'm devastated I'm not there'.

"So a million per cent, I made the right decision and I'm happy and I stand by it, so not really."

Yet Duff's playing career, outside of the international arena, goes on. He has 12 months left on his deal with Fulham, after that he may carry on playing in England, but long-term, Ireland will be his home and he will play here for anyone who will have him.

"I'll be playing for the Dog and Duck until I'm 56 or 60 or whatever," Duff joked.

"Obviously I am going to move back here. My wife is Irish and my two kids are Irish and they are going to go to school here.

"As I have said before, if there is anybody who will take me. Shamrock Rovers – I played against them before and they gave me a bit of stick. We have a few issues, me and the fans," he laughed. "That's the plan and I definitely want to come back and do it. We'll see what happens."