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Thursday 14 December 2017

Derryman Duffy deals with abuse but is still lost for words after call-up

HE HAS crossed hurdles and crossed borders and suffered abuse to get to where he is today, but for Everton man Shane Duffy, the experience of the last 24 hours of being a fully fledged member of the senior Republic of Ireland international squad makes it all worthwhile.

Not all of the obstacles have been cleared, and the boy from Derry admits that he's worried about how he'll shape up when faced with the initiation rite involved with new members of the Irish squad, where the greenhorns have to stand up in front of their new team-mates and sing a song for the group.

"I'm more nervous of the singing than playing," jokes Duffy when asked about the dual challenges of performing his song and then possibly playing against the Czech Republic on Wednesday night.

But so far, there has been little in the way of comic material when it comes to his international career.

Two years ago, Duffy was pitched into the Republic's squad as an extra body needed for a training game against the Irish junior international XI, but Duffy suffered a freak injury during that training game which, only for the rapid intervention of the FAI medical staff, could have cost the young player his life.

And his decision to opt for the Republic after a spell involved with his native Northern Ireland -- Duffy won underage caps for the North and was an unused sub in a senior game against Italy -- has also created problems for Duffy who has, like his fellow Derry native James McClean, been the subject of online abuse.

"You get stick, I get it every day but it's just something I have learned to deal with," he says.

"People at Everton have told me to just get on. James started replying to people (on Twitter) but he'll learn to just put it to one side. I get it every day and it's just one of those things you move along from.

"It's one of the proudest moments of my career, of my life, so far.

"Coming from Derry to represent your country in Ireland, words can't describe how it feels, how I felt when I got the call-up.

"I'm not being disrespectful towards Northern Ireland but the Republic of Ireland is my country, I will be honoured to play for them and I am proud to be in the squad.

"Hopefully it will be happier circumstances for me compared to the last time I was in Malahide, but I'm trying to put all that behind me now," he says, in reference to that clash on the training ground at Gannon Park two years ago which was almost fatal.

"It has been tough, there have been so many ups and downs but I try not to look back," Duffy told the Herald.

"I am learning every day, though. It is hard at Premier League level, the standard is very high, you have players in front of you and all you want to do is play.

"I am still young and I am learning every day off great coaches and players, and getting a call-up like this is only a bonus."

Duffy has made some real progress with his club this season, as he was recalled by Everton from a loan spell with Scunthorpe to fill in for an injury ravaged Toffees defence, only to then fall victim to injury last week, before recovering.

"I'm feeling fit and confident and I'm ready for the few days of training and the game. I'm delighted that it's worked out okay for me and that I'm able to be here," he says. "The ankle injury happened at a bad time as I was in the team and doing well but I am young and I recover quickly. Injuries happen in football.

"I got my chance in the Everton side due to injuries to other players so it's one of those things. I can't ask for a better manager than David Moyes, he just gives me so much confidence -- he was a centre-half as well so he knows where I am coming from, if he thinks I am getting too ahead of myself he'll take me down.

"I'd happily stay there for the rest of my career. Everton have looked after me since I was 16, looking after me when I was injured, sending me out on loan, without Everton I'd be nowhere. When you see someone like Jack Rodwell coming through you think, 'That could be me some day'.

"When you're young you're naïve and you do think 'oh it won't happen' but as you get older and more mature it does start to happen, but I don't want to get too carried away with myself. I just want to keep working hard and if it happens, it happens."

Right now, it's all happening for Shane Duffy.

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