Shane Duffy believes that after slow start he can be a better player for club and country

More than seven years have passed since Duffy made his senior debut for Everton

 

Giovanni Trapattoni seemed to see something in him long before he was playing regular first team football and Martin O’Neill has championed his cause now that he is fit but Shane Duffy admits he is still getting to where he needs to be with life in the Premier League, he hopes, about to bring out the best of him.

It has all been a little longer coming for the 25 year-old than might have been expected. It is more than seven years since Duffy made his senior debut for Everton and the defender looked destined for great things around Goodison Park for a while.

Instead, he endured the sort of frustration that is familiar to “next big things” at wealthy clubs everywhere these days with first team opportunities elusive as successive managers sought to play safe and overlooked him in the process.

When he had finally decided that the time was right to go, Roberto Martinez encouraged him to change his mind and fight for his place but by then he didn’t believe anymore that he could have a future at Everton. He will never know for sure he called that right but he does look set to be a top flight regular next season while a hundred first team games have made him a better player.

“Blackburn,” where he went first, “gave me the opportunity and in the end it has worked well. But it could have gone the other way so I am delighted in the way it has ended up.

“Obviously at Brighton it’s been a good year for me, the club has been brilliant for me; they’ve brought me on.

“You could say I’ve improved in that time but at the time you don’t know because you’re thinking about the next training session and the next game to improve; that’s what you’re looking at.”

There has been the odd tangle with the tabloids along the way but thanks to O’Neill, his international career has taken off with the big centre back essentially establishing himself as a regular since being named in the team for the Italy game in France last summer.

His sending off against the hosts in Ireland’s next game kept him out of the opening World Cup qualifier against Serbia in September but eight months on, the question is not whether Duffy will play this Sunday but rather, who it is that O’Neill will start alongside him.

A lack of consistency has, he admits, remained an issue but he believes he is getting to grips with the challenge of playing at a high level regularly and feels top flight football on a weekly basis can help him become the footballer he feels he can be…and needs to be.

“Of course when you’re going up to the Premier League, it’s obviously a bigger league and better players so obviously it’s a lot more intense.

“But I think the club’s ready for it and I feel I’m more ready for it now than I was when I was at Everton. I went on a few tough loans that brought me on and then left a big club like Everton to drop down a league.

“You learn from different things and then you move on. With Blackburn, it was more of a defensive game, while at Brighton, who were competing for promotion, we have to play.

“So I feel it’s good progress, where I’ve been. I’ve dropped down to come back to where I feel I can play and I’m looking forward to the season now.

“I was quite naturally a raw player when I started and I’m still learning the game. When it comes to decision making, every player would say they could do better. For me it’s all about timing and concentration. If I’m concentrating for 90 minutes I feel I can have a good game.

“It’s just at the higher level you go, you can’t not concentrate. I feel like I’m getting better. Year by year I feel I’ve improved and hopefully I’ll have another big year for consistency. Next year in the Premier League will help me a lot.”

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