Attila Trenka/INPHO Shane Duffy.
Shane Duffy pleased to turn a corner and leave 'very difficult' season behind him
The defender looked a lot more like his old self in picking up the Man of the Match award in the friendly draw with Hungary.

SHANE DUFFY HAS left a wretched year behind him, signing off with the Man of the Match crystal from Ireland’s season-ending friendly with Hungary.

Duffy’s dream loan move to Celtic this season curdled into a nightmare: he was ultimately dropped from a terribly underperforming and dysfunctional team, and an injury led to a slightly early return to Brighton.

Duffy has also endured recent off-field trauma, following the untimely death of his father in May last year. 

Though in spite of not making an appearance at club level since 14 February, Duffy was terrific playing on the right-hand side of Ireland’s back three in Budapest, and picked up the Man of the Match award from RTE. 

“Very difficult”, said Duffy after the game when asked to reflect on the season he has had.

“I think it has been well noted I’ve had a tough time on and off the pitch. I feel that I’ve dealt with it as best I can, I didn’t plan for it to go like this but that’s the setback I’ve got, and I’m big and ugly enough to deal with it and come out the other side. 

“This season is over now and I feel mentally I’ve turned a page, and I’m not going to stop now. I’m going to keep going through the summer and be ready for pre-season and hit the ground running. I feel I’ve had a year off, where I haven’t played my best stuff and I am ready to get that back next season.” 

Duffy said he was grateful to Stephen Kenny for even selecting him in the squad for the 10-day camp in Spain, given his lack of gametime.

“It’s never been about me, it’s been about the team and I am just trying to do my best, whether it’s on the pitch or off the pitch I feel I can bring a lot to the squad. I am grateful to the manager for picking me, I haven’t played football since February, so even to be in the squad, I’m grateful for that.

“I’m lucky, and it’s nice to be back on the pitch playing football there is no better feeling. And to get a positive result, everyone knows Hungary are going to the Euros and it was a tough test with all their fans back in, so I think we can take a lot of positives. 

“He has been great with me. We talk quite often during the season, we have calls all the time. I’m realistic as well. I’m not stupid coming in here. I haven’t kicked a ball for Celtic since February, and I’m grateful he has picked me because I feel I can bring something to the squad.

“We sit down and talk about it. It’s never been about me but about doing my best for this team, and if that’s on the bench or around the squad, that’s what I will do. We have a great relationship and everyone in the squad has that relationship, where you can sit down and talk to him about anything and he’s always there for you.” 

shane-duffy-with-fans-after-the-game Attila Trenka / INPHO Duffy hands his shirt to an Irish fan at the game in Budapest. Attila Trenka / INPHO / INPHO

Ireland’s World Cup hopes look decidedly uneasy following two defeats in their opening two games, but Duffy is holding out optimism ahead of September’s triple-header against Portugal, Azerbaijan and Serbia. 

“You always have that belief. It was only a couple of games played and if you write us off now, it would be stupid I’d say. We’re just getting going hopefully, and it’s about the performances turning into results and we’ll shock a few teams hopefully and kick on.

“We fully believe the manager has the right thing going here and with a little bit of luck with players and Covid and stuff like that we can kick on.” 

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