Monday 19 August 2019

Duffy hopes managerial bounce from McCarthy can lift Irish to Danes' level

Brighton centre-back Shane Duffy says Mick McCarthy has given everyone in the Ireland set-up ‘a fresh star. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Brighton centre-back Shane Duffy says Mick McCarthy has given everyone in the Ireland set-up ‘a fresh star. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

To Shane Duffy, the parallels must have seemed appropriately grim.

His Brighton side were seemingly capable of producing the big results when it mattered, as an FA Cup semi-final run amply illustrated, but the general theme was one of stasis, if not slowly inclining inertia, as the club slipped further and further into relegation trouble.

Something needed to change if the results and performances did not. As is the wont of the modern game, the manager, in this case Chris Hughton, bore the brunt even though he and his side limped to safety in the final weeks.

Duffy would have experienced the same feeling when he briefly detoured to Ireland duty under Martin O'Neill. A heralded manager, unable to halt a terminal decline, even if occasionally capable of producing a key result which, rather than stemming the trend, actually tended to amplify its downward spiral.

Hoping

Mick McCarthy has already produced the predictable, if often inexplicable new manager bounce and the Derry defender will be hoping that Graham Potter can do the same with Brighton.

"The fans weren't happy as we were losing, not playing particularly well, very defensive and trying to hold on to results rather than going and trying to play our normal game, which got us there in the first place," he says.

Duffy is speaking of his club in the final days of Hughton's reign; he could just as easily apply his description to Ireland under O'Neill.

"I could see the fans' point of view and that is probably what got us in trouble in the end, confidence going and just little things like that.

"It was quite tough the last few months, but we had the Cup run which took people's minds off the performances in the league and maybe that hindered us a little."

And now? Duffy is "shocked" at Hughton's departure - "one of the biggest influences on my career" - but remains realistic.

"The owner wanted to go down a different route and maybe it's down to the style of play. You see Wolves and what they can do, Burnley last year. We're hoping we can be one of them and maybe a new change might be good."

Again, the parallels with Ireland are striking.

"I wouldn't have called it a darkness," he says, prompted to reflect on managerial change in green.

"They were just tough times when everything was going against us. But obviously the new manager came in and gave us all a fresh start. New players knew they were going to get a chance, there were new formations and everyone has been really good since he has come in.

"You could see everyone really trying to impress to get in the team. It's been enjoyable and it's been about having fun as well as being serious.

"Mick brings that with his character. So it's all good at the moment, although we all know how football can suddenly turn. We just keep trying to play our game."

Tomorrow night against Denmark will be a more representative test of McCarthy's re-modelled outfit, for all the enterprise demonstrated against Georgia.

The sides have been evenly matched in their regular recent meetings, save, of course, the 5-1 Dublin drubbing two years ago which spelled the beginning of the end for O'Neill.

Coup

Duffy scored the opening goal that night as O'Neill threatened another unlikely coup, before the predictability of the collapse that followed.

"It was a horrific night, probably the worst of my career. The feeling afterwards in the dressing-room was horrific.

"But you have to feel that and then say, 'don't let that happen again.' You have to learn from those nights.

"Every footballer goes through tough periods and that was a tough one for us and it sort of carried into the next campaign where it killed us for a while.

"So hopefully it's a new fresh start now, which is what we wanted. Because you get back that winning mentality when you are winning games.

"You keep believing that you can beat anyone and that's what we've got to do."

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