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'If you don't think we're going in a positive way, you're writing the wrong stuff'

Shane Duffy has firmly backed Stephen Kenny amid talk surrounding the Ireland manager’s future.

Shane Duffy applauds fans after the game.
Shane Duffy applauds fans after the game.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

SHANE DUFFY firmly backed boss Stephen Kenny after Ireland’s 0-0 draw with Portugal on Thursday night.

The manager’s current contract elapses in the summer, and the team’s failure to qualify for the World Cup left some question marks over his future.

However, recent improved performances have led to many calls for a contract extension and Duffy left no doubt as to his opinion on the matter.

“I think Stephen’s brilliant,” the Brighton defender told reporters. “He had a tough start with the whole Covid and players dropping out and that resulted in results not going our way. But if you don’t think we’re going in a positive way, you’re writing the wrong stuff. We’re all going in the right direction. There’s a difference in the football we’re playing. Fans are excited about it.

“For me, I think it’s obvious we love playing under him. We’re all fighting for him. Even during the hard situation there at the start, we were still fighting for him. That’s a sign that the players want to play for a manager. Every single one in there and the backroom staff as well, they’re all amazing. If you went in that dressing room, everyone’s happy and that’s the way it is.” 

Asked as to what has prompted the recent upturn in fortune, Duffy added: “I think the performances were there. The results may have affected us a little bit and taken a bit of confidence away from us. Maybe, we’ve had a few results that have built our confidence but I think the performances have been there.

“We’ve been knocking on the door. But we’ve had a few bad ones obviously. The one here against Luxembourg wasn’t great.

“But there have been a lot of new faces. So we’re giving each other a lot more now and building relationships.”

One of those new faces is Chiedozie Ogbene. The 24-year-old was handed a first competitive start against Portugal and Duffy reserved high praise for the Rotherham attacker.

“Since he’s come in, he’s been a breath of fresh air, really positive, really good person. You can tell he’s just a happy character — he loves playing football, loves playing for Ireland. Since he’s come into the team, we try to use him as best we can. The last few performances, he’s been outstanding, so hopefully, he kicks on now and there are many more to come.”

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Duffy himself has also looked rejuvenated of late, as epitomised by one instance in the game where he produced a drag back that most attackers would be proud of to get himself out of trouble when in possession.

“I think I play my best when I’m not really thinking and doing stuff off the cuff. At the moment, I was in a tight situation and the pass wasn’t on. Maybe a year ago, I wouldn’t have done that.” 

Asked if there was any particular moment where it felt as if their fortunes were starting to turn, Duffy added: “Not really, I think it’s just building confidence. We knew at the start what the manager wanted to do. He wanted to bring younger players through, build something for the future, not just now. We saw that as well. But at the end of the day, we wanted results.

“Now, we’re starting to pick up a few results. That’s building a lot towards what the manager wanted — he wanted to build something new. The younger lads are building so much confidence and caps already, handling scenarios like this and they’re only going to grow from that. 

“In the last four or five games, I think we’ve taken a bigger step forward. The team has grown in confidence. Especially the way we set up tonight against one of the best teams in the world. There’s real confidence in the way we’re playing. It’s just disappointing we didn’t get the ball [in the net].”

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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