THE Republic of Ireland’s fresh-faced Derry contingent will be officially initiated into the team at their Malahide training base in Dublin ahead of tomorrow’s showdown with the Czech Republic.
Indeed, both James McClean and Shane Duffy were preparing for a unique duet in front of the rest of the Republic squad when commenting after Sunday’s training session, a task Duffy was at pains to admit before his big ‘performance’.
Having been drafted into the first team squad for the first time, Duffy and his room mate, McClean, are eager to make an impression on manager Giovanni Trapattoni, and they will be hoping their singing voices haven’t put paid to their dream debuts!
“We have to sing so I’m not looking forward to that,” said Duffy on Sunday night. “I haven’t got a clue what song we’re singing but I can’t even speak sometimes,” he laughed.
The Derry pair may have been nervous ahead of their big stage appearance but Duffy claimed he was looking forward to making his international debut.
And his blossoming friendship with McClean has made fitting into the Republic set-up a lot easier.
“I’m close to James. We’re both the same sort of people,” he said.
“We’re just over the moon, we didn’t expect it. He’s been on fire for Sunderland.
“In fact, he probably deserved a call in the first place but the manager didn’t really want to change his squad. I’m delighted for him, he’s close to me and we’ve been talking about it since the minute it happened.
“We know each other since we were playing in Ireland, so about five or six years. We’ve got closer since he moved to Sunderland and started travelling to see each other.
“When he’s down on Merseyside or I’m up in Newcastle we’ll see each other. It’s good to have people around you who are mates and when things aren’t going well in England, it’s good to have mates close by. We’re in the same room together so it makes things a lot more comfortable.”
Duffy has watched with some interest as his ‘close friend’ has burst onto the Premiership scene with Sunderland and admits he was surprised at how easily McClean has adapted to life in the top flight of English football.
“I think he’s surprised everyone,” said Duffy.
“He was a good player when I was growing up with him. He’s a few years older than me but I always knew that he was a good player.
“I still think that he’s surprised everyone, when you see him. Now you couldn’t believe that he’s come from Derry City and the League of Ireland. It’s all credit to him, he’s a top lad.”
Having faced a backlash himself for changing international allegiances in favour of the Republic, Duffy can empathise with the treatment McClean has been receiving on Social Networking Site, Twitter in recent weeks.
“You have to be mentally strong. It’s people trying to put you down. It’s one of them things on Twitter. The fans give you a lot of credit and praise so it’s good but then you get those other people. You have to move on.
“They are not doing harm to me by saying it, it’s my decision and life and I’m playing for my country. They can say what they want. I don’t even bother with them. If they want to keep doing it they can do it, it’s not affecting me in any way.”
With members of his close family making the trip to Dublin for tomorrow night’s game, Duffy is excited about making his dream debut.
“I’ve just got close family coming up. I’ll see what happens up but they’re obviously proud of me and I couldn’t ask for anything better from a family. If I get a game hopefully they’ll be there to see me.”