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Tuesday 16 October 2018

Now I feel I belong

Nervous shakes are gone but World Cup loss still hurts Duffy

Ireland defender Shane Duffy is pictured in action during training in Antalya, Turkey yesterday
Ireland defender Shane Duffy is pictured in action during training in Antalya, Turkey yesterday

Ireland's players wore their new training kit for the first time under a sunny Turkish sky yesterday.

There are pangs of envy, though, as rival nations unveil the kits they will wear in Russia at the World Cup finals in June, the Republic of Ireland obviously not one of the teams taking part.

Shane Duffy, now a key member of this senior squad and not one of the young guns, admits that this is all a learning curve.

He is only now, he admits, getting to grips with the demands of Premier League and international football, the 26-year-old one of the first names on the team-sheet with Brighton and Ireland, no longer a bag of nerves.

"When I played at Everton the first time I was purely raw, I'd just come out of Derry," Duffy said after yesterday's training session in Turkey.

"I was shaking when I was playing. For the first five minutes you'll be shaking and you don't even want the ball. When you get your first header you feel better about it all, but the first five minutes you're thinking about everything, where you are positioned, and looking around everywhere.

"Now, I'm just calm, I feel like I belong there. It's a nice feeling to go out knowing you can compete with those kind of players and feel comfortable," added Duffy, also a man at home in the Premier League.

"It's just down to believing in myself, getting the chance to play at a good level helps.

"Chris (Hughton) has given me the chance to play in the Premier League where I'm developing and Martin has given me the chance to play on the big stages and in a big tournament.

"You take little things out of each one of them and it's all coming together a bit now and hopefully there is more to come. I'm still a bit raw in some things I do but I'm getting better."

While Duffy and his Ireland team-mates are on the Turkish coast, Denmark are 3,500km away, chilling (literally) in their native land as they prepare for a summer in Russia. And Duffy admits that the loss to the Danes still scars.

"It was a tough night, it still is. Even now, talking about it with the lads. Then you're watching other teams getting their new kits for the World Cup and things like that, while we're playing friendlies," he says ruefully.

"We talk about it, then just shake our heads at the end of it.

"If you'd offered us one game, at home to Denmark, to make the World Cup, we would have bitten your hand off.

"We thought we'd done the hard work out there, maybe we scored…." says Duffy, breaking off before he says what everyone thinks, that Ireland scored too early, not part of the game plan.

"But we sat back and perhaps that killed us, we should have just kept to our gameplan. We didn't and that is our own fault. We have to take that on the chin."

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