'We know it's a difficult game, Moldova are a good team that cause problems'

Shane Duffy says Ireland must secure a win against Moldova on Friday before a crucial meeting with Wales in Cardiff.

Shane Duffy Shane Duffy scored his first international goal against Georgia. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

THAT NIGHT IN Tbilisi will undoubtedly go down as one of the most deflating in recent history for Ireland’s senior national team, however more than most it was beyond bitter-sweet for Shane Duffy.

The defender leapt high and brave to head the ball beyond Georgia goalkeeper Giorgi Makaridze to give Ireland the lead and a dream start, in what was his first ever international goal for his country.

From there, however, it all went downhill as Martin O’Neill’s side succumbed to a dismal 1-1 draw which will mark a lowpoint in the Derryman’s tenure in charge, particularly if Ireland fail to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Russia.

It was Duffy’s 12th appearance in the green and white shirt and represented a milestone achievement in his development — from a fringe player on the peripheries of O’Neill’s squad to a first name on the team shirt.

“It’s been a great year,” the Brighton defender reflected ahead of Ireland’s crucial final qualifiers against Moldova on Friday and Wales in Cardiff next Monday.

Shane Duffy and goalkeeper Darren Randolph dejected after Serbia score a goal Duffy reacts at the final whistle of Ireland's 1-0 defeat to Serbia. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“I’ve had a lot of highs and lows in-between and it’s been a great learning curve, but I’m happy to be involved and getting my chance at the minute. Hopefully it can continue.”

Following tough draws against both Wales and Austria as home, Ireland went into last month’s pair of qualifiers with optimism brimming in the knowledge that should results go their way, Ireland would go top of Group D and be in pole position to finish with automatic qualification.

Duffy’s goal epitomised the physical graft and selfless endurance the 25-year-old has brought to the Ireland set-up in place of stalwarts Richard Dunne and John O’Shea.

With just four minutes on the clock it all seemed to be going according to plan, before the following 86 minutes turned the occasion completely sour for team and player alike.

To get off the mark was probably the only positive from the game personally,” said Duffy on the performance in Tbilisi.

“I was delighted from that point of view, but it definitely was one of our most disappointing performances in the campaign.

“It was a disappointing night over there. We had a lot of support over there and it was disappointing, but things happen in football, we move on and we’ve got two huge games coming up.”

Duffy is one of three Irish central defenders playing in the Premier League this season and has become a senior figure in the national squad despite still being in the early stages of his career for his country.

Shane Duffy The Brighton centre back has become a mainstay of Ireland's defence over the last year. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

The player says each opportunity to play for Ireland represents a new personal success.

“I’m a proud man from Ireland and every time you walk out and hear the national anthem it’s a great feeling that you’re playing for your country,” he said.

Going out there and doing it not just for your team but for your country — the pressure of everyone in the country wanting you to do well is a great feeling.

“If you come out with a good result and performance, it’s a different feeling when the country gets behind you.”

Ireland welcome Moldova to Dublin on Friday knowing nothing but a win will do. Two wins are the minimum requirement from the nation’s final two qualification games, and even then a play-off position is not guaranteed.

A Shane Long strike added to by a brace from James McClean earned three points in Chișinău last time out.

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However Duffy acknowledges that Moldova did show glimpses of their ability in the 3-1 defeat — with their goal coming via an error from the defender –as well as in last month’s 2-0 defeat to Wales.

Shane Duffy celebrates scoring The defender celebrates his first international goal for Ireland against Georgia. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“They know their strengths. They know they have to sit behind and maintain good shape and hit you on the counter. I know in the last game out there they caught us off a mistake from myself, and it’s one of those things that you can’t let happen.

“We’ve got to dominate at home, put early pressure on them and hopefully we can come through.

You’ve seen upsets in football where you think you can just turn up, but we can’t do that in this game because we’ll get punished.

“We know it’s a difficult game and Moldova are a good team that cause problems. We saw in their game against Wales that they had to push until they got the result, and it’s going to be the same with us.

“We’ve got to start well and deal with that game and then if it all works out well it’ll be a huge one on Monday against Wales.”

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