Friday 23 March 2018

Duffy looks to World Cup and admits his Euros chance has gone

Republic of Ireland's Shane Duffy has already set his sights on the World Cup qualifiers. Photo: Seb Daly / Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland's Shane Duffy has already set his sights on the World Cup qualifiers. Photo: Seb Daly / Sportsfile

Damian Spellman

Shane Duffy is already focusing on the World Cup qualifying campaign after admitting he could be "miles off" making Martin O'Neill's Euro 2016 finals squad.

However, simply pulling on an Ireland shirt once again in Friday night's 1-0 friendly victory over Switzerland has provided fresh impetus for a man who almost lost his life on a football pitch as a teenager.

Blackburn defender Duffy, 24, had to wait almost two years to win his second senior cap after making his debut against Costa Rica in America in 2014, but turned in an assured display alongside Ciaran Clark at the heart of O'Neill's defence to suggest he could yet make it on to the plane to France.

But, he will be taking nothing for granted as he looks to a long-term international future rather than what may or may not be just around the corner.

Asked if he could force his way into the reckoning for the summer, Duffy said: "I'm probably miles off it, but I've just got to go out there and try to see what I can do. I don't know if the manager's got his squad picked but all you can do is take your chance.

"Everyone wants to play and the lads who got us to the Euros are there. They've done all the hard work, so I can't just come in. I've got to bide my time and if it's not this one, then it's the next campaign. I've got to focus on club football and try to impress. I can't just come in and take someone's place."

Duffy's short career to date has been nothing if not eventful.

Then at Everton, Duffy was called up to train with Giovanni Trapattoni's' Ireland squad as an 18-year-old at the end of the 2009-'10 season, but having been promised a taste of the action in a friendly against Paraguay, suffered a lacerated liver in a freak accident in a practice match and underwent emergency surgery with his life in genuine peril.

Thankfully he made a full recovery and the experience is, understandably, one upon which he does not like to dwell.

In football terms too the ensuing years have been challenging with loan spells at Burnley, Scunthorpe and Yeovil eventually leading to a permanent switch to Ewood Park, where his career has now started to take off.

Duffy said: "It's probably just consistency. I'm playing regularly and maturing as a centre-half. The way I play, the more games you play, the better you get.

"I was very raw two years ago - I still am - but I'm playing every week and I'm enjoying it. I've just come here to try and impress the manager and the players, so you never know."

If Duffy and Clark did what was expected of them at the back, they also combined to good effect at the other end of the pitch in what proved to be the game's decisive moment. Duffy got his head to Robbie Brady's second-minute corner to help the ball on to his defensive partner, who made no mistake from close range.

"We got off to a pretty quick start with the goal," said Clark. "They had a lot of possession, but I felt we were fairly comfortable. Personally, it was good to get a goal, but as defenders, we judge ourselves on clean sheets and that was just as important."

With the hugely experienced John O'Shea and Richard Keogh seemingly certain to make the squad for France, Clark and Duffy know there is real competition for places, but both will head into Tuesday night's friendly against Slovakia in high spirits.

"Everyone is fighting for places now," added Clark, "but obviously we know that only 23 can be selected for the final squad, so everyone is doing their best and trying their hardest to impress."

Kevin Doyle, meanwhile, has confirmed he suffered no lasting damage after undergoing surgery to repair an horrific gash to his leg.

The 32-year-old Colorado Rapids striker was carried from the pitch on a stretcher during Friday night's friendly after going down in agony following a challenge by Norwich defender Timm Klose.

Doyle later tweeted a graphic photograph of the injury as he prepared to undergo a procedure to clean and stitch the wound at Dublin's Mater Hospital.

But yesterday he revealed he will be able to resume running once again within a matter of weeks.

"Thanks to the plastic surgeons at the Mater Hospital," Doyle tweeted. "Leg looks brand new, no serious damage, back jogging in a few weeks."

The injury could hardly have come at a worse time for the former Cork City striker, who was starting his first game for Ireland since a 2-0 friendly victory over Oman in September 2014. He now has 62 caps and has scored 14 goals for his country.

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