TWO years ago, an Under-21 training match at Malahide almost cost him his life. Yesterday Shane Duffy was back at the same venue to hear he will make his Republic of Ireland debut tomorrow alongside James McClean.
The Everton centre-half still can’t grasp the severity of that freak accident at Gannon Park which required life-saving surgery following a laceration of his liver.
However, the talented 20 year-old Galliagh man believes he has returned mentally stronger as he prepares for a new chapter in his senior international career.
And having received a late call-up for Giovanni Trappatoni’s squad to play Czech Republic in the Aviva Stadium tomorrow night alongside fellow Derry man, McClean, Duffy is desperate to make a strong impression on the Republic boss.
“It was a bit weird (being back out at Malahide),” he said.
“Today was the first time I’ve been back out there since my injury.
“It was a bit weird seeing it all again. It’s just one of those things in football, you get a knock but I didn’t think about it too much.
“It’s a long time ago, two years in fact,” he added. “It all happened so quickly but then the recovery went on for so long - I’d never been out for that long. It was a big thing that happened to me.
“I didn’t know what to think at the time because I didn’t know how serious it was until I opened a newspaper. The doctor didn’t tell me because he didn’t really want me to know.
“My dad and family kept it quiet as well. I was to just take it easy and I’d get back playing in the end.
“It was about five months after that when I returned to playing football again, I couldn’t really ask for anything else.
“It’s in the past now. The way I play I have to be brave and have courage. When I go onto the pitch all I think about is football and trying to keep a clean sheet,” continued Duffy.
“It was a serious injury but these things happen in life but they make you stronger. It’s made me stronger as person, made me a lot more mature and I think about life.
“I’m just happy to be playing again and I could now be playing for both my country and Everton.”
And having been given assurances by Gionvanni Trapattoni that, both he and another Derry man, James McClean, will play some part in tomorrow night’s friendly against the Czechs, Duffy hasn’t given up hope of the Derry contingent forming part of the Italian’s Euro 2012 squad this summer.
“Being part of the international set-up gives you the feeling that it’s where you want to be,” he explained. “You can imagine the country is so proud of every player who is going to go there.
“As a player, stepping on that plane would be the biggest highlight of my career. If it ever happens I will be ready for it and if it doesn’t. I will continue to fight on and try to play better.
“Playing for your country is something you dream about and it’s happening at the minute so I can’t really describe the feeling of it.
“I’m just going to try to enjoy every minute of the experience and, hopefully, I can impress.
“To be honest, it’s a long way away for me at the minute.
“I’m just thinking about my club form. But it’s a dream to be here. If it did come off for me, it would be amazing, but I’m taking nothing for granted.”
There’s no doubt that the former Foyle Harps defender has big boots to fill tomorrow night when one considers the fact that he’s replacing the injured Richard Dunne, but the Derry man Duffy feels he can become a natural leader at the heart of the Republic defence in the future.
“I would like to think I’m a natural leader at the back. I like to open my throat and raise my voice. It’s one of those things I have grown up with and learned about at Everton, especially from the centre-halves at the club.
“If I had a player beside me shouting at me, I would like it. It helps you and makes you a better player. It makes you feel comfortable,” he claimed.
From playing League One football on loan at Scunthorpe last season to playing for Everton’s first team squad in the Premiership and now for his country against the Czech Republic, Duffy says he can’t believe how fast his progression has been this season having taken full advantage of both the ‘Toffees” and Republic’s injury problems.
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“It’s been crazy. I got the call from the manager (David Moyes) to come back from my loan spell. Then I started the following week at Villa Park and I had a few good games. I’ve got lucky with a few injuries and now I’m here, hopefully I can take my chance.
“Scunthorpe seems a long time ago now but that experience set me up well. Ity gave me the confidence to play and it has matured me as a player. Even though the level wasn’t the highest, it was a learning curve for me and I I think I’ve learned quite a lot. I’m now playing in the Premier League and it’s so different.
“The manager said that I was going to be needed; he said that I was only going (on loan) for a couple of months to get experience. Then when I came back he said he trusted me and that I was going to be playing first team games this season so I’m looking forward to that.
“I just want to play as much football as I can to be honest. I haven’t played much over the last couple of weeks because I’ve had an ankle injury but I’m back from that now.
“I’m always ready to play for Everton and whatever comes after that is a bonus,” concluded the Derry man.
Gibby Claims Award For
Meanwhile, Duffy’s Everton team-mate, Darron Gibson, who withrew from the Republic squad due to injury, claimed the ‘International Goal of the Year’ at the 22nd Three FAI International Football Awards which took place at RTÉ studios on Sunday.
The Everton midfielder’s wonder strike against Wales in the Carling Nations Cup was voted the best strike of 2011.
Former Derry City duo James McClean and Eamon Zayed lost out to former Shamrock Rovers defender, Pat Sullivan for the Airtricity League ‘Player of the Year’ in Sunday’s awards.