Saturday 7 December 2019

McPhail at home again and eyeing Duff reunion at Tallaght

Stephen McPhail wants to see his old Ireland teammate Damien Duff to join him at Shamrock Rovers. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Stephen McPhail wants to see his old Ireland teammate Damien Duff to join him at Shamrock Rovers. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Stephen McPhail would relish the prospect of a reunion with his old Ireland colleague Damien Duff at Shamrock Rovers after the Dubliner confirmed his intention to come home to finish his career.

The ex-Leeds midfielder joked that he might start clogging up Duff's phone with text messages to try and persuade him towards Tallaght, although the Fulham winger has hinted that he will try a stint in America or Australia before landing back on Irish soil.

"I'd love to see him at Rovers," said McPhail, who is settling into life at the with the Hoops following his move home from Sheffield Wednesday.

"He's a great player, he's talking about playing here so, yeah, get him to Rovers. I'll send him a few texts. It would be great for the club and great for the country for Damien to come home and play."

Family reasons inspired McPhail's decision to come home and sample life in a league that he watched as a kid, but is only now learning about as an adult. His initial view is positive, yet having come from the English second tier, the difference in facilities is obvious. And while he is impressed by the ability of the leading performers, he concedes the strength in depth isn't quite there around the league.

"I've really enjoyed it, there's a lot of quality players," said the 34-year-old. "I'd obviously know our lads at Rovers a lot more than the rest of the league, but we've some really talented players and the young lads are eager to do well.

"They want to ask you questions and use your experience, so I'm trying to pass that on. I've enjoyed it, it's only been six weeks or so, so it's early days."

Asked about the biggest difference between here and England, he cut to the point. "Maybe just the facilities," he responded.

"In terms of the football – football is football and it's very similar. Maybe the quality throughout the teams is not as good; the good players tend to go away at an early age and that's about it.

"In terms of the way things are done and the way we work, it's very similar training methods and the way the lads look after themselves, go to the gym and do their recovery work is very similar."


McPhail was rested from the Rovers' side for Tuesday night's Setanta Cup semi-final defeat to Dundalk which means he misses out on his first domestic final.

However, he kept an eye on developments in England over the weekend which brought back memories of one of his career highlights, when he captained Cardiff City in their 2008 FA Cup final loss to Portsmouth.

He knows what Hull's Irish contingent will be going through with David Meyler, Stephen Quinn and possibly Robbie Brady on course to figure in the game.

"Yeah, the occasion is massive," he said, "The week leading up is mayhem, speaking to press, getting pictures and photos, but you have to focus on the game.

"I remember picking the brains of people who were there before and asking how they dealt with it, and it's key to put all the other stuff to bed early in the week. I love it, it was a special moment to captain a team and walk out in such a game. Although it's not as nice when you lose, it's devastating as you always picture yourself picking up the trophy."

Cardiff were a Championship side when they reached the big day, and McPhail feels that Hull, who are well on the way to preserving their top-flight status, might go one better than they did.

"You look at Arsenal... Birmingham beat them in a final before and Hull have players in the same league so I don't think they will feel inferior. On the day, over 90 minutes, they can do it."

Meanwhile, McPhail has suggested that his former team-mate Ian Harte could have a last hurrah in the Irish jersey if Martin O'Neill needed an experienced face. Harte is part of a Bournemouth squad vying for a play-off place in the Championship.

"I was talking to him last week," said McPhail. "He's been brilliant, even if he's a bit in and out of the team. When we played him at Sheffield, we had a good chat and he's still going strong. He's probably got one of the best left feet there is, he could put it on a sixpence and smack it in for anyone. He knows how to perform in big games and I'm sure Martin and Roy Keane know that. You just never know."

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