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Tuesday 12 December 2017

Shane steps up on his good friday

Shane Duffy made an immediate impact during the friendly last night
Shane Duffy made an immediate impact during the friendly last night
Kevin Doyle is stretchered off

A sad night for a veteran and a good night for a newcomer.

International friendlies are always a case of mixed results, mixed messages for the manager and a chance to maybe bag a win that will raise you up in the FIFA rankings, as if that really means anything to anyone these days.

The book-keepers at national associations are often the only winners from these friendly games, and the healthy crowd at Lansdowne Road last night will be welcomed by the FAI's money men, the game also thirstily appreciated by the fans who found a way around our licensing laws to get in a rake of pints on a day when beer was hard to be found legally across the city.

These games can, however, throw up a winner for the manager. While debutant Alan Judge had a relatively quiet night and will do better if he gets a chance in the next game, at home to Slovakia on Tuesday, it was Shane Duffy - a home debutant, winning his second cap - who will be to the fore of the manager's thoughts today after a very good display from a man who looked like he was born to play senior international football.

Painful

Sadly, we had one someone who lost out, and lost out in a very painful way on Good Friday as Kevin Doyle lasted for only 26 minutes of his big audition before he was forced to leave the field, carried off on a stretcher and in distress after an injury from a clash with defender Timm Klose - a team-mate of Robbie Brady at Norwich City as it happens.

Doyle is one of the longest-serving players in the squad and from the starting XI last night only Aiden McGeady had been around the senior scene for longer.

The Wexford man suffered from the bruising tackles of a very physical Swiss side who also laid into Shane Long - what was that line from The Third Man about the Swiss being famous only for cuckoo clocks?

This was Doyle's big chance: his first Ireland start in 18 months, a chance to make it to France, 10 years on from his Ireland debut. The medical update will come over the weekend, early suggestions are that he has a gashed shin, but that he will not need surgery. However, the potential seriousness of the injury will be a big concern and it would be a real tragedy if the loyal and popular Doyle missed out on Euro 2016 because of a clash with a Swiss-born Norwich defender in a March friendly in Dublin. Anything but a Good Friday.

But one man who came away from Ballsbridge last night with reason to smile was Duffy, and he is now ahead of competitors like Alex Pearce in the race for that 23-man squad.

For a long, long time Duffy was a mainstay of the Ireland U21 team and with 20 appearances on his CV at that level, he's our second most-capped player (only Graham Barrett played more times).

Winning so many U21 caps is not always a badge of honour - Roy Keane once teased Jamie Redknapp about his big haul of U21 appearances for England and Paul Scholes boasted that he never got even one as he was pitched right into the senior team.

Duffy has had to bide his time, at club and international level. He could have fluffed his lines last night - remember how a highly-rated centre-half called Paul Butler was thrown into the Ireland side a decade ago and promptly disappeared?

The 24-year-old made an early impact on the game as he got a goal-bound touch to Robbie Brady's corner and Clark was left free to nod the ball over the line, glory for Clark with his second international goal but kudos to Duffy for the assist.

After that, it was a case of holding the line and defending the lead, which Duffy and his back four did well. The Swiss, impressive in qualification, were not up to that much, taking long-range shots at Darren Randolph's goal. Shane Long showed leadership up front, David Meyler controlled things in midfield and Duffy looked solid and reliable beside Clark.

Once we hit the 60-minute mark it was time for the substitutions to kick in (four of them at once) and while it was a big night for debutants Eunan O'Kane and Jonny Hayes, we learned little from a quiet closing half-hour, little cohesion or real craft from either side, bar a late chance from sub O'Kane which was wide.

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