Duff: We need Ireland back
DAMIEN DUFF wants to see former international team-mate Stephen Ireland back in the green shirt, but Duff is not predicting an Irish future for fellow Newcastle United man Kevin Nolan.
Duff was back in his native Dublin at the weekend, lining out for Newcastle in their 3-0 win over an under-strength Shamrock Rovers side in front of 5,000 fans in Tallaght, and with the next international game - at home to Australia in Limerick - only five weeks away, Duff's thoughts are already on the World Cup campaign.
And Duff has insisted that there will be a warm welcome for Manchester City man Ireland if he ends his self-imposed two-year exile from the national team.
"We'll wait and see. If he does come I will, and I'm sure the rest of the lads will, welcome him with open arms. He was the best player last season so I'm sure he'd improve us," said Duff, who again discounted the theory put forward by Stephen Hunt that there would be a "riot" in the Ireland camp if Stephen Ireland returned to the squad just before the World Cup finals, if of course the team qualify.
"There'd be no problem with me but I've seen some of the younger lads who are probably a bit naive saying things in the press," added Duff.
"We know who they are - saying they wouldn't be happy - but whatever problems Stephen has had he is a top player and if he comes back fair play."
There has also been speculation about an Ireland career for Newcastle midfielder Nolan. Though he was capped at underage level by England he's now eligible to play for Ireland due to a FIFA rule change on player eligibility, but Duff does not expect to see Nolan in the green jersey.
"I think he has mentioned it but he likes his days off and a few beers when the international time comes around," joked Duff.
"I don't think so. The lads are doing well already so I don't think there is any point in upsetting the applecart. He is a great lad and a top player - very clever. But I think he said no before so there is no point in pushing away at him."
Ireland will use the August 12 game against Australia to warm up for that crucial World Cup game in Cyprus a month later, with the 5-2 defeat in Cyprus still on the minds of many in this country, but Duff insists that the Irish side are not out for revenge.
"We can't go there thinking of it as a revenge mission - we are just thinking about the group and obviously we need three points," he said.
"We are definitely good enough to go there and win but you can see the teams that have gone there already - Italy only sneaked a win in the last few minutes.
"People think you are going to go there and spank Cyprus but it just doesn't happen.
"The result a few years ago - we know what it was like. But we are looking to go there and win. We obviously need the three points and we are desperate to get them."