SHANE DUFFY may have missed the plane to Poznan for the 2012 European Championships, but the Everton defender has high hopes of forcing his way into contention ahead of the next World Cup qualification series.
The 20 year-old Galliagh lad got a taste for the international scene when he made his senior debut for Giovanni Trapattoni’s troops in the 1-1 friendly draw with Czech Republic at the Aviva Stadium last February, and he hopes it won’t be too long before he can re-join fellow Derry men, Darron Gibson and James McClean in the senior set-up.
Duffy will be following the Republic’s progress in Poland/Ukraine closely this week during his well earned summer break having done his part in helping the Under-21 squad secure a vital 2-2 draw with group leaders Italy in last Monday afternoon’s U21 European Championship qualifier at the Sligo Showgrounds.
“I can’t wait to watch the lads to be honest,” he said ahead of Sunday’s clash with the Croats. “Hopefully they will do well as they’re all great lads I met when I was there (Malahide). You can see the quality within the squad but it’s a very tough group with Croatia, Spain and Italy. I’ll be right behind them.”
The former Foyle Harps member was the most relieved player on the pitch at the final whistle on Monday evening as Noel King’s men managed to salvage a point despite Duffy registering his first international own goal which gave the Italians an early lead.
The Ireland U21 side moved to within two points of second-placed Turkey in the European Championship qualifying group after bouncing back from a 0-2 deficit to take the first points off the Azzurri in six qualifiers, and with three games remaining Ireland can secure a runners-up spot by defeating the Turks at home on August 14th.
Duffy was obviously disappointed with his own goal but he was delighted his team managed to fight back to claim a point which leaves them in good stead for a place in the top two in the group.
“The lads got me out of a hole by battling back because I was mentally weak in the first half and didn’t play well at all. I came out sluggish by scoring the own goal and let myself and my teammates down. At half-time I came in and said sorry and told them they won’t get that again from me.
“Everyone has a bad game and hopefully that’s mine out of the way. Hopefully I’ll learn from my mistakes and ensure I concentrate from the first minute.
“It was good to fight back there and get the draw,” he added. “That was the most important thing about it. We showed good belief in ourselves but that’s been the case since day one. We’re not afraid of the big teams and are aiming to qualify. We showed that by coming back from 2-0 down to draw against a top team.
“The lads will be in better shape by the time we play Turkey. We’ve been off-season for three or four weeks now so it’s difficult to jump in and play qualifying games in the middle of your summer. We’ll be fitter and you’ll see more quality in the team then. We always had belief as we showed against Italy.”
Loan Move likely
Duffy made his Premier League debut for Everton at White Hart Lane against Tottenham Hotspur in January and went onto make seven appearances for the Toffees.
Everton boss, David Moyes has indicated that Duffy could once again find himself out on loan at the start of next season having already gained valuable experience on loan spells at Burnley and Scunthorpe.
And the Lower Galliagh Road native has not ruled out the idea. “It was brilliant at the time,” he added of his Premier League involvement. “But it slowed down a bit in the last three or four months. Hopefully I will get playing as I need games. We’ll have to see how next season starts off. I don’t know where I’m going to be. I’ll wait and see.
“I’m young and am focusing on club football at the minute. I just want to play football as I’m not that sort of player who stops and starts. That’s how you can get the best out of me,” he concluded.