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Sunday 25 September 2016

Blackburn's Irish Rover 'not scared'

Shane Duffy
Shane Duffy

He has yet to kick a ball in a competitive international, so walking on to the big stage of the European Championship finals would be a big step-up for Shane Duffy.

Yet the defender, who spent last season with a Blackburn Rovers side which never troubled the upper reaches of the Championship, says he has the ability to take on the demands of Euro 2016, if given the chance.

"I think you have got to thrive off it. It's my aim to get back into the Premier League and to play international football. I believe in my ability and if I get the chance then I have got to take it," says Duffy when asked if the leap from the Championship to facing Eden Hazard and Zlatan Ibrahimovic is not too much.

"I would not be scared of playing against anyone. It's just a name really and I think the squad is confident of doing well, and not just being there part of the tournament but doing well in it."

A year ago, Duffy was not really on the radar of the Ireland management season, but a good season personally with an under-performing Blackburn side and then a good showing in the March friendly against Switzerland edged the Derry native to the stage where he's very close to making the squad. Duffy jokedthat he's this week auditioning.

"It feels like when I was on trial when I was 15 and having to sign for a club. It's the sort of feeling where you have to go and impress," he says.

But his international career has been stop-start. Brought onto the senior scene by Giovanni Trapattoni, Duffy suffered a serious injury, indeed could have lost his life, in a training match in 2009.

He was an unused sub three times before finally getting his senior debut, under Martin O'Neill, against Costa Rica in 2014 but had to wait until the recent game against Switzerland to move beyond his one-cap-wonder status.

And the ex-Everton man admits he has improved.

"I've got a lot better on the ball. If you want to step up you have to be comfortable on it the way the game is going. So I have worked a lot on that. My physique too.

"I've got a lot fitter and got stronger. Obviously I've tried to get better at what I was already good at, in the air," he added, hoping to contribute the odd goal.

"I should have more goals than what I got this year (5). I should probably have got double figures. It's a big thing for me the way I play because I like attacking the ball."

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