Centurion Duff to captain Ireland


Soccer:Damien Duff has been given the honour of captaining the Republic of Ireland in their final game of Euro 2012 against Italy tomorrow as he makes his 100th appearance for his country.

Ireland’s usual captain, Robbie Keane, requested the armband be handed to his team-mate, with whom he has played for his entire international career. The pair debuted together against the Czech Republic in 1998 and will line out tomorrow in the same starting team that took to the field for the first match against Croatia.

Typically, Duff was practically horizontal in his chair and had been “dragged kicking a screaming” to the pre-match press conference.

"I'm never one to make big a thing out of anything in life," he said. "It's something that I will probably look back on, maybe next week, maybe next year. It's a feat, but at the minute, I just want to get a good performance and a good result tomorrow.

"It's obviously an awful proud moment, but like I said, I'd take three points tomorrow ahead of 100 caps at the minute. I know how much it means to myself and my family and what have you, but I am not trying to make a big deal out of it. I just want to get on with the game and hopefully do the business.

The 33-year-old admitted it has been a long time since he gave a team talk, but that he saw no reason why his team-mates would need any extra motivation after two disappointing defeats to Croatia and Spain in the last week.

Trapattoni opened the press conference by saying: “All of us should express gratitude to Damien, who is not only an excellent footballer but also a great role model.”

Asked for his thoughts, Keane added: "He's been obviously a massive, massive player since he made his debut. We made ours together and we have been through a hell of a lot together. As well all know, he's a top, top-class player and the respect that he has around the dressing room from every player and how people speak so highly of him... When you are around him, he is great company and not only that, he's a top, top player.

"We have been very good friends since we made our debuts and it was only right for me to make this gesture because he has been an absolute credit to his country and will go down as probably one of the best players that we have ever produced.”

Duff, who was asked whether he would continute playing for his country after the tournament, added that he had made his mind up but that "it was not the right time to let anyone know".

The manager offered little explanation as to why he reverted to the team that took to the field against the Croats a week ago today, other than that he “will play the same team that brought us qualification out of respect to my players.”

However, it was hard to escape the perception that he may well have been making a point to some critics, most notably, former Ireland captain Roy Keane, who suggested this morning he should change all 11 players.

Trapattoni reacted a little angrily to those comments today, by asking the assembled media at his pre-match press conference, in uncharacteristically coarse language, what the Corkman had ever won as a manager.

After expressing his surprise in English at Keane’s persistent criticism, he turned to the Italian contingent in the audience and in his native tongue, said: “What has he ever won, for fuck’s sake?”

This drew a brief applause from some of his countrymen, who had already clapped Il Trap on his way into the press conference, but the Ireland manager was quick to offer a calming gesture and move on to the next question.

When addressing the question in English, the Italian said: “He has been a great player with great success but I man not sure he will achieve it as a manager. I can ask him why? He is an intelligent man but I do not understand it.”

At this point, an opinion was also sought from Robbie Keane, but the Dubliner declined to comment other than saying “I will leave it at that”, referring to what his manager’s comments.

Rep of Ireland: Given; O'Shea, Dunne, St Ledger, Ward; Whelan, Andrews, Duff (captain), McGeady; Keane, Doyle