Damien Duff: I never liked punditry or pundits...even at the time I was thinking ‘My God, what am I doing?'
We may well see Damien Duff in the analyst’s chair during Euro 2016 but under no circumstances will he pass comment on any game involving the Republic of Ireland.
The two most obvious career paths for retired top-flight footballers remain management and punditry, or both. Still testing the various waters, Duff, who hung up his boots last December following a short spell with Shamrock Rovers, is actively pursuing each avenue.
Currently studying for his UEFA coaching badges, the former Chelsea winger is gaining practical experience with the Hoops’ underage sides and, late last month, made his first appearance on the RTÉ soccer panel for the Champions League tie between Arsenal and Bayern Munich.
Admittedly, the 37-year-old has never had much time for the musing of the media but as a means of avoiding a post retirement decent into the stasis, he tentatively agreed to cross that particular threshold. On reflection, Duff was reasonably satisfied with his performance.
“Obviously I tried RTÉ a couple of weeks ago; that’s probably rich coming from me….I never liked punditry, I never liked pundits but at the same time you’re sitting at home and you need to go and try something, I guess.
“I always would have found that sort of thing difficult so I put myself out of my comfort zone, put a bit of pressure on myself. For a week or two beforehand I knew what game I was doing so I was studying, trying to be the best and what have you but it’s just something to focus on because when you don’t have something to focus on, I guess it’s dangerous.
“They (RTÉ) looked back at it with me, they do things right; I thought me being analysed was over with my football career being over but no, the producer there looked back over it talked to me about what he thought went well.
“I wouldn’t change anything that I said; obviously I l was like scratching heads and looking around at monitors and all that, even at the time I was doing it I was thinking ‘My God, what am I doing.’”
Like Richie Sadlier, Duff could provide a shot of youthful zeal to the ensconced curmudgeonly trio of Liam Brady, John Giles and Eamon Dunphy but, more importantly, he can impart much of the knowledge accrued as an elite 21st century professional.
The contributions of Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville revolutionised Sky Sports’ coverage of the Premier League and Duff believes that same model is applicable to Irish television.
“I wouldn’t even watch the games on a Monday night but I’d watch from seven to eight just to listen to those two (Carragher and Neville).
"Like you said, a modern insight, I don’t know what game it was….Kyiv against City, the stuff like in Arsenal and Barca the night before, people trying to get a yellow card, people mightn’t see that, people mightn’t know that it goes on but it does, it goes on all the time and people don’t know that so if I could possibly give a little bit more insight into stuff like that then, yeah.”
His rapport with RTÉ presenter Darragh Maloney also went a long way in convincing him to step in front of the camera and the Republic of Ireland centurion sheepishly admitted that Maloney has been in close contact to ensure he’s taking notes on Messers Giles, Dunphy and Brady.
“With RTÉ, if I didn’t like Darragh Maloney, I possibly wouldn’t have done it but I found him a really great guy; he just texted me last night…I thought I was away from all of this after leaving football but he said, 'Have a look at the three guys later'. I guess it’s like learning all over again for me.
“But I’ve done it twice now and I find the more the evening wears on, the more I ease into it because at the start it was nerve-racking. Then you look at the three guys last night, they’ve been doing it for years and it’s like they’re just sitting at home having a chat. I thought it went well, I thought I gave a different point of view, maybe a modern insight into the game.”
Having found his experiences thus far relatively pleasing, Duff is open to the idea of coming on board for coverage of this summer’s European Championships, but was quick to shut the door on doing so when Ireland are in action.
He maintains personal bonds with some of the squad and is unwilling to run the risk of jeopardising those relationships.
“Possibly, we’ll see. I did enjoy it in a weird, sort of perverse sort of way. That’s probably just me being out of my comfort zone; you’ve done okay then you come home and you’re, oomph, a bit relieved, happy it went well.
“So possibly, I’ll possibly do a Champions League game in the next couple of weeks, touch wood if that goes well then possibly I’ll do a couple of games during the summer.
“I’ve had a couple of offers from different people wanting to know if I’ do Irish games but I’ve refused to, it wouldn’t sit right with me, I still have friends there; friendships that have been built up over a long period of time; not that I’d say anything negative about them anyway. But I wouldn’to risk it,” he said.
Damien Duff was speaking in Lifestyle Sports, Grafton Street, in celebration of the new Republic of Ireland jersey going on sale. Lifestyle Sports announced that they would be supporting Irish fans by putting 12 trips to Euro 2016 in France up for grabs for anyone who buys their jersey at Lifestyle Sports between March 10 and May 27.