Saturday 17 August 2019

Shane Duffy on emulating his idol - and why he walked away from a career with Northern Ireland

Shane Duffy celebrates alongside Robbie Brady after a towering performance in Ireland’s victory over Wales. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Shane Duffy celebrates alongside Robbie Brady after a towering performance in Ireland’s victory over Wales. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Shane Duffy has revealed that he dreamed about following in the footsteps of the legendary Paul McGrath when he walked away from an international career with Northern Ireland.

Derry-born Duffy represented Northern Ireland at all junior levels up to the senior side before he jumped at the chance to join up with Giovanni Trappatoni’s Republic of Ireland set-up in 2014.

“My Mum is from Northern Ireland and I played for them at schoolboy level purely because that is the natural route when you go to school in Derry,” the Brighton defender told

“I was always going to change to Ireland if I was ever going to play professionally and Liam Brady got in contact with my Dad when he was involved with the Ireland set-up and it all went through very easily.

“I have never been a bitter person towards Northern Ireland and I’m delighted to see them doing so well. Michael O’Neill has done an amazing job there and I would love to see them qualify for the World Cup along with Ireland.”

Former Manchester United and Aston Villa defender McGrath was a hero for Duffy as he set his sights on the biggest stages in the game, with his admiration for the defender who played in the 1990 and 1994 World Cup finals shining through in these comments.

“McGrath was the best of the best and if you look up to someone like that and try and emulate them, you cannot have a better player to try and follow,” he continues.

“His performances were always so special for Ireland, Manchester United and Aston Villa and when I heard people comparing some of my recent performances with Ireland to his, it was a great feeling for me.

“I also used to watch Rio Ferdinand, Nemnaja Vidic and John Terry when I was growing up. They were the best defenders in the Premier League and at that time, you look at it and think you will do well if you have a quarter of the career they have had.”

Duffy established himself as one of the first names on O’Neill’s team sheet over the course of the World Cup qualifying campaign, with the aerial threat he offers when he moves forward for set pieces one of the more profitable routes to goal for Ireland in Copenhagen.

Rugged, powerful and resolute, Duffy is an Ireland centre-back cut from a familiar mould, yet he wants to be viewed as more than just a warrior in green.

“People often say they see me as an old fashioned centre-half, but I can pass the ball as well you know,” he says with a smile.

“I always thought I had a better chance of improving on what I’m good at as a defender rather than trying to become Sergio Ramos or John Stones, who are known for their great ability on the ball.

“Maybe some defenders look a bit more elegant on the pitch, but all centre-backs are basically asked to do the same job at the end of the day. We need to keep the ball out of the goal and that is what we are paid to do.”

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