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Duff stands firm over Ireland exit - 'It's one decision I'm most proud of in my life'

‘We all make decisions in life. We know when we’ve made some good ones and some bad ones… It’s like I’ve never been there, I’m good at moving on.’

Duff with Ireland manager Stephen Kenny.
Duff with Ireland manager Stephen Kenny.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

DAMIEN DUFF INSISTS his decision to quit his role as coach with the Republic of Ireland is one that he is ‘most proud of in my life’ as he revealed how he is still in contact with manager Stephen Kenny.

The 42-year-old was confirmed as Shelbourne’s new head coach on Tuesday after previously overseeing the club’s U17s.

Duff had spent time juggling his position with Shels alongside his work with Ireland, but his brief tenure with the FAI came to an end after they decided to investigate a motivational video and speech made by Kenny in the dressing room at Wembley prior to a friendly with England this time last year.

Duff is understood to have been furious with the probe into the management team’s methods, as well as the leaking of information regarding the video and pre-match talk.

Senior players and staff members present at the time were spoken to by FAI chiefs as part of the investigation and no wrong-doing was subsequently determined, but Duff’s relationship with the association was beyond repair.

damien-duff Duff was unveiled as Shelbourne head coach on Tuesday. Source: Evan Treacy/INPHO

“We all make decisions in life. We know when we’ve made some good ones and some bad ones. I don’t think anything has changed on that, it’s as clear as day, it’s one of the greatest decisions, or a decision I’m most proud of, in my life.

“To have that, I don’t know whether you’d call it balls, probably courage or personality to go ‘no’ when something means so much to you, i.e. Ireland, that’s what I mean by being proud of my decision, that [love] could have easily took me back in.

It’s like I’ve never been there, I’m totally fine. I’m good at moving on. I still text Stephen, Dean [Kiely], Keith [Andrews] best wishes for every game, I’m in touch with some of the staff. I’m a fan now and whatever sport it is I want Ireland to win.”

Duff had been tempted to make his first visit to Aviva Stadium since his decision for Thursday’s World Cup qualifier with Portugal.

“I was going to go but I see it’s sold out and I wouldn’t ask anyone for a ticket. I’ll just watch it on TV like everyone else,” he said, before explaining why he won’t be appearing as a pundit for RTÉ despite being a regular for Champions League coverage.

“I just think it would be disrespectful for me to be commenting on Stephen Kenny or the players so I won’t be doing that any time soon.”

Duff also opened up on how the pressure he has put on himself to succeed during his career has made him ill, and explained how he will take a leaf out of former boss Jose Mourinho’s book by creating a siege mentality among the Shels squad in order to survive relegation.

soccer-fa-barclaycard-premiership-chelsea-training Jose Mourinho keeps an eye on Duff during Chelsea training. Source: Adam Davy

The Ireland centurion, who won two league titles under the Portuguese at Stamford Bridge, feels the lessons learned working for him will stand him in good stead ahead of his first campaign as a senior manager.

“I’ve been in touch with him once or twice. When I move on, I go. There are not many people I’ve kept in touch with. It’s like passing ships in the night, isn’t it? You move on,” Duff said.

“Subconsciously I got that from him. Like, I know that if had an issue he would be there for me. Have I spoken to him? No. Probably subconsciously that’s where I’ve got it from, that siege mentality, building a group, because there is one thing for sure, next year we won’t have the best budget or the biggest budget.

Are we going to have the best squad? Probably not. That’s where you are going to have to have best mentality, the best bunch, gang, call it whatever you want. That has to be better than everybody else. That doesn’t cost money, that’s just application and belief and it will be up to the staff to build it.

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“The pressure thing, yes it’s uncomfortable but I’ve had it since I was a kid. Listen, it’s potentially made me ill at times. Listen, f**k it, we won’t even get into that today but I can be hard on myself. I know I don’t switch off, so even as a player, it probably won’t have been good for me but I keep coming back to that ultra focus.

“That’s the one thing you miss when you retire, it’s 24/7 focus, that’s all. It’s not teammates or having a five a side, the buzz of the crowd, it’s focus, focus, focus.

“I’ve been spoiled with the environments, good or bad, that I’ve been in. Listen, [former Ireland boss] Brian Kerr, he knows every player in the world. Me, at the minute, I don’t know every player in the league so I’ve a lot of catching up to do.

“I realise that to get to any level or be successful it has to be 24/7 with that focus and give detail, detail, detail. That’s what the top guys bring.”

BTL 5

Originally published at 0700

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