herald

Monday 18 December 2017

Coleman lies in wait

Toffees wonderkid focuses on task for U21s but vows he and team-mate Duffy will step up to senior stage

THE DONEGAL connection has provided us with Shay Given, Aiden McGeady and James McCarthy for tonight's senior friendly against Brazil in London.

But the production line in our most northern county has a few more to come, as Everton duo Seamus Coleman and Shane Duffy are next up for promotion to the big stage. Full-back Coleman believes Duffy, a recent convert to the Republic, has the potential to win international honours.

Coleman will win his 10th U21 cap in tomorrow's European Championship qualifier against Armenia at Tallaght Stadium, though the game came too late for Derry native Duffy -- who last week revealed his intention to turn his back on his native Northern Ireland and declare for the Republic, qualifying for certain through his Donegal-born father -- to have all his paperwork in order.

Duffy and Coleman have already played together on the European stage, making two appearances in the Europa League for Everton, and Killybegs lad Coleman feels that 18-year-old Duffy is a top-class recruit for the Republic.

"It's great for the Republic to have Shane on board. He's a great centre-half, good on the ball and very strong in the air. I knew he was thinking about declaring for the Republic and he was asking me about it, what the set-up was like and how I enjoyed it," Coleman told the Herald after linking up with his U21 team-mates in Dublin yesterday.

"I was never going to persuade him on his own. It was up to Shane and his dad and they made the call to come with the Republic.

"It was a hard call for Shane. He knew he could have made all the headlines by just playing for the North this week and getting his cap against Albania, but in his heart he wanted to play for Ireland, and I know he will play for the senior team with the Republic," added former Sligo Rovers ace Coleman.

"Shane and I have played together for the Everton first team twice. We won away to AEK Athens in the Europa League -- I started and Shane came on. The two of us started the game at home to BATE Borisov and we lost that one, but I think we had a good partnership in defence and hopefully we'll get to play many more games for Ireland and Everton," he said.

"I know Shane's from Derry but there's a good, strong Donegal link there with his dad being from Letterkenny, and it's great to see so many players from around Ireland in the Irish team.

"It would be amazing for myself and Shane to play for Ireland alongside Shay Given. You have another Donegal lad, Johnny Dunleavy, doing well with Wolves, you have Greg Cunningham from Galway in the senior squad. It's great to see the rural lads get a chance."

The fact that Coleman is in Dublin with the U21 squad and not in London with the seniors shows that he has to be patient before more progress comes. Same story at club level, too, as he had a great run in the Everton side -- debut against Benfica in October, a Premier League debut the same month and seven appearances in all -- but has dropped out in recent weeks as he failed to even make the bench for last week's Premier League defeat to Tottenham.

"I wasn't involved with Everton at the weekend but I had no problem with that. We had players coming back from injury so someone had to drop out of the squad and I lost my place. We had two defenders, Jagielka and Yobo, on the bench so I can't complain too much," said Coleman.

"We had been playing very well, the last two results weren't the best but up until that our form was very good. I was happy enough to be on the bench.

"The manager has been fair with me all along and I will do whatever he wants me to do. If he wants me to go out on loan then that's fine, I trust David Moyes to make the right call. If he wants me to stay on and fight for a place in the squad, I'll do that."

The player says he's not upset by his exclusion from the squads with Everton or Ireland's seniors. In a way he's glad that the fuss which surrounded his Premier League debut late last year has died down.

"It went a bit crazy there for a while after I made my debut. It was great to make the debut, but the publicity was all a bit too much to handle," he says.

"For a long time the only media interest in me was from people like the Donegal Democrat but for a while there I had everyone calling me -- it was crazy. That was a few months ago now. I have to push on and play some more games. I can't just rest on my laurels, I need to move my career on now.

"I also have to be patient with Ireland. I heard my name mentioned in relation to the senior squad but I wasn't thinking about it. I knew myself that I would be with the U21s for another while yet as I have only played a handful of games for Everton.

"Even to get mentioned was a compliment, to know that Marco Tardelli was aware of me and speaking about me was a great boost.

"But I won't get carried away, I know my career will start to dip if I let this little bit of success go to my head, so I am happy to be with the U21s here.

"I missed the Armenia game last year. I played in the first game but got injured so I wasn't there for the 4-1. We have had a mixed run with the U21 team, so we're keen to get a win here against Armenia and move up the table."

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