Damien Duff: I felt like a a spare part out injured - I can't wait to start playing
Damien Duff admits he is itching to make his Shamrock Rovers debut on Monday after being declared fully fit.
The Ireland centurion has been a frustrated spectator since finalising his move four weeks ago to the club he described today as the “biggest in Ireland”.
Having progressed under the care of the club’s medical team of Alan Byrne and Tony McCarthy, the 36-year-old was deemed fit enough for a place on the bench for Friday’s win over Longford Town.
Victory is essential for Rovers at Tallaght Stadium on Monday to close the five-point gap on second-placed Cork and their key capture may well be unleashed on John Caulfield’s side.
"Maybe the next step is Monday or a few weeks later,” he said today as he was introduced to the media for the first time since Pat Fenlon secured his signature.
"I’d been out injured since February but I feel good in training. I felt like a spare part until I got back into full training and now I just want to pull the jersey on. Any footballer just wants to play, we're not good watchers. I've moved home and I just want to play.
"I don't know what effect it's going to have on the league but, for me, I just want to play at the highest level in the country and that's the League of Ireland.
"I know it won't be easy for me and I'll have to work very hard to impress.
“There's a lot of fit lads and fit teams in the League. We played St Pat's a couple of times last week and they're a good footballing team. It'll be interesting to see Cork on Monday and then we've Dundalk too. There's good teams and proper footballers in this league."
Duff’s availability comes in the same week his fellow former Ireland international Keith Fahey was forced to retire due to injury. Instead of three, Fenlon will have Duff and Stephen McPhail as the pair of players at his disposal blessed with the experience of international football.
Duff said: "Keith a massive loss. There are great footballers in the league and Keith was another one of them.
"He scored an important goal for Ireland in Armenia a few years ago which sent us on our way to the European Championships. And I remember how disappointed he was then to miss the tournament through injury.
"I saw Keith the other day downstairs in the office when he was finalising all his paperwork. It was hard talking to him as it's a disappointing time in any player's career.
"He had a good crack at it and there were a few more years in him. He was a proper footballer with a proper football brain.”