Damien Duff celebrates at the end of Shels' win against Shamrock Rovers. Ryan Byrne/INPHO
siege mentality

'Is it us against the world?’ It absolutely is. It’s just the way I like it'

Duff also said he doesn’t know the length of his contract at Shelbourne, saying he ‘signed that contract when I was drunk in Lisbon.’

DAMIEN DUFF FEELS it’s a case of Shelbourne against the world – and that’s exactly how he likes it. 

Shels are now six points clear of second-placed Derry City at the top of the league following Friday’s 2-0 win away to champions Shamrock Rovers. Duff’s side are nine points clear of the third-placed champions, with more than half the season played. 

“Just past the halfway stage to be nine points ahead of the best team this country has seen for many years, Jesus it’s a big, big shock”, said Duff. “But expected to be? I just said it’s not acceptable if we’re not challenging for what we believe.”  

If Shels can go on and end Rovers’ shot at a five-in-a row, it would mark a stunning upset. 

“The budget has steadily increased over the last three years but is still probably half of Derry and Rovers”, said Duff of what he is working with at Shels. “Here, it’s fine. I don’t be knocking on doors saying ‘give me this and give me that.’ That’s fine because we have some absolutely brilliant players in the building.

“I saw a stat the other day that we’ve had the most amount of goals off the bench. Our bench can’t be that bad but they they were told after the game [against Shamrock Rovers] that they were fucking awful tonight. We made the five subs and we were worse.

“The budget thing doesn’t really bother me. We take great pride in our coaching and organising our team. We are probably the one team in world football who gets criticised for being organised. It’s like a negative in this country. “Awh, against Damien Duff’s team if you go 1-0 down they can defend.” It’s a big fucking part of football but it’s seen as a negative here which I find absolutely incredible.” 

Having worked under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Duff is happy to cultivate a siege mentality at Shels. 

“Is it because it’s us? Maybe”, he asked rhetorically before referring to the Shels’ jubilation at their last-minute winner against St Patrick’s Athletic on Monday, during which goalkeeper coach Paul Skinner was sent off. 

“Even celebrating goals tonight, I’m rather muted”, continued Duff. “We’re probably the only staff in world football that are criticised for celebrating a goal and then get punished for celebrating a goal. Does it happen to anybody else? No. But it happens to us. I used it in the Mansion House the other day: ‘Is it us against the world?’ It absolutely is. It’s just the way I like it. And I don’t need 40, 50 grand budget. I’m happy with mine.” 

Life is good for Shelbourne off the pitch at the moment too: the future of Tolka Park has been secured and the club have also landed a windfall of approximately €1 million following investment from Neil and Cathal Doyle. 

With Duff understood to be on a rolling, year-to-year contract having signed an extension last year following the abrupt exit of Turkish owner Acun Ilicali, he was asked whether he feels committed to Shelbourne for the long-term. 

“You will find it bizarre when I say I’m a real simple guy”, said Duff.

“I absolutely mean it. Payslips: granted I’ve been lucky to earn nice money in my career. I’ve not looked at a payslip. It’s all about the football. As for my length of contract, I actually don’t know. Joe [O’Brien, assistant manager] and me were having a chat last week.It was like, ‘How long are you here for Gaff?’ I said. ‘I don’t know.’

“I signed that contract when I was drunk in Lisbon 10/11 months ago. I don’t know what I signed. I don’t know what I’m on. That’s God’s honest truth. I could be up at the end of the year. I could be on a rolling. I’m not trying to get out of it. I’m a simple guy. I just like coaching, being out on the pitch with wonderful guys. If it’s up next week, here, it’s a surprise. If it’s up at the end of the season, ok, great to know. Outside of that, fuck knows what it says in my contract. And that’s the truth.” 

Reporting by David Sneyd 

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