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Dublin: 10°C Thursday 13 May 2021

'It will be hard to top' - Shane Duffy takes chance after learning of call-up late on

The big Derry native put in an impressive shift.

Image: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

MARTIN O’NEILL SAID after Ireland’s shock defeat of Italy last night that Shane Duffy looked like he had 30 caps in his cabinet.

The fact that the Blackburn Rovers defender put in such a commanding performance at centre back on his competitive debut is all the more impressive as he only learned of his inclusion yesterday evening.

“It’s hard to put it into words at the minute,” the Derry native said. “I’m just trying to take it all in. I’m just ecstatic that we won.”

“[O'Neill] named the team when he got here so I just kept myself ready and hoping.

“He doesn’t say too much to you. He just said ‘get ready, go and do it and enjoy it’. He relies on me so there’s a big confidence just to throw me in the biggest game of my career anyway, and a lot of us. What a night. It will be hard to top.”

Six years ago suffered a freak injury while on Ireland duty that saw him undergo life-saving surgery at the Mater hospital. He recovered, rebuilt his career and last night made up one half of a new-look and formidable defensive partnership with Richard Keogh.

“We could have been leading at half-time,” he said. “I thought we were the better team in the first half but I thought we were brilliant for the 90 minutes. The whole team effort, even the lads who came on. It’s hard for me to speak. It’s such a special night for me.

“I thought we set our tempo out there early. We knew they had made a lot of changes and so did we. I thought we had good energy in there and the pressing was there. I thought Jeff [Hendrick] was brilliant once again. The energy the midfielders and the strikers put in. You could just tell in the changing room before it was just going to be our night.”

Wes Hoolahan came off the bench to play a pivotal role. He first missed a sitter after 85 minutes and then seconds later sent in the cross for Brady’s goal.

“You’re always gutted but you always believe in this team’s spirit that there’s going to be another one,” says Duffy of that initial opportunity for the Norwich playmaker. “It’s a matter of whether we could take it and we did. The character it shows of him to put a ball in like that on his head shows the quality player he is. He’s been brilliant for us.”


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