Monday 18 February 2019

'Martin and Roy have shown the way' says ever-improving Duffy

Shane Duffy and Cyrus Christie of Republic of Ireland. Photo: Sportsfile
Shane Duffy and Cyrus Christie of Republic of Ireland. Photo: Sportsfile

The precise job which Roy Keane does for the FAI to earn his €300,000 a year salary is one of those questions which pops up in the dark times with the national team.

Especially as Keane's salary is twice that of Adam Namalka, the coach who has led Poland to automatic qualification for the World Cup.

But Shane Duffy has praised the roles that Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane played in helping to mastermind Monday's dramatic win over Wales in Cardiff and earn Ireland a place in the World Cup play-offs.

O'Neill's new contract, controversially awarded before the play-off place was secured, has been under scrutiny along with the exact function which Keane performs as assistant to the boss.

But Duffy, who reached the 15-cap mark in Cardiff and who is developing as a senior international, feels that the management team deserve credit for what transpired on Monday night. "The boss is brilliant, he's had so many big-game experiences," says Duffy, who was brought into the senior squad for the first time by Giovanni Trapattoni in 2012 but had to wait until O'Neill's arrival for his debut.

"He just makes you calm and gets you up for it. He lets you know how important it is and everyone listens when he speaks.

"It's great to learn off him, it's great for me personally, and he's given me a chance to go out there and perform on a big stage. He's been brilliant.

"And Roy does his bits - he goes round to individual players and gets you up for it. It's great, it's working at the minute," added the Brighton defender, admitting that the group has been a struggle at times.


"We've had lows and highs. Georgia away and Serbia at home were lows and then you turn it around - two wins, it all changes and everyone's happy again.

"We never got too down when it was bad and we never got too high. We're just going to enjoy this. We're in the play-offs - let's bring it on," Duffy said. Former Ireland boss Mick McCarthy is on record as saying that it takes a player until the 15-cap mark to feel truly at home at international level, and Duffy is now at that stage of his career.

He made his competitive international debut in the testing scenario of that meeting with Italy in Lille last year, another encounter with the Italians possibly on the horizon should the two teams be paired up in next week's play-off draw.

Duffy has had ups and downs in the green shirt - the defender admitted that boss O'neill gave him a "slap across the head" for the error which gifted Moldova a goal in Ireland's 3-1 win in Chisinau last year.

But Monday in Cardiff saw Duffy move up a level with what was his best display in an Ireland shirt to date.

"Maybe it was just my night and I felt I stepped up. It wasn't just me. I had so much protection. The lads in front of me were outstanding and Randolph pulled off a great save," Duffy says.

"I kept saying to myself: we aren't conceding here. It was just one of those things - confidence, and everyone defended.

"Every ball that was dropping, Meyler, Harry and Jeff in front of us gave us so much protection. Every ball we won we were on the second ball, and James has so much energy, and big Murph up front was brilliant.

"He bullied the centre-halves and everyone put a shift in. That's what it's all about. And James McClean probably has been our best player in this campaign. He works hard; what you see is what you get. He's a top lad and he deserves everything he gets.

"We always get written off but we always come back. We know inside that dressing room that we can beat anyone and we've proved that before. Big games like that, we thrive off them. We knew we had to soak up a lot of pressure early on and we did that and they got frustrated and never really got through.

"And we knew we would get a chance with the forward players we've got.

"Sometimes when you're the underdog you come through."

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