Shane Duffy deflects blame from referee and says players must stand up
Irish players relieved to salvage point and sanguine about referee’s performance
Ireland’s Shane Duffy reacts during the World Cup qualifier between Ireland and Austria in Dublin. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/EPA
“Get it up there to the big boys,” was the half-time message from Martin O’Neill that spurred Ireland’s players on to salvage a point in the second half of this match. Shane Duffy said there was no anger from the manager over the way the home team had failed to impose themselves on their opponents, just a clear instruction that having tried but failed to play their way past Austria, the locals needed to go long. It was a fairly frank admission at the way in which the very basics still serve as this side’s plan B.
Duffy, like the handful of other Irish players who passed through the mixed zone after the game, was adamant that the hosts might have, should have, taken all three points with their dizzying aerial assault on Austria certainly generating the lion’s share of the second-half chances. The defender’s insistence, though, that his own late goal should not have been disallowed because he was looking at the ball seemed to conveniently ignore the fairly indisputable fact that he had led with his arm.
Jon Walters backed up the Derryman’s claim that the referee had been mistaken in ruling out what would have been a winner for Ireland but the striker was less certain regarding his own penalty claim, merely suggesting that he “possibly” should have had one. In reality, it is hard to spot any great injustice here even if the air was heavy afterwards with the sense of it.
Duffy, to be fair, admitted that the players needed to accept some responsibility too.
“It is easy to look at the referee,” he said. “You have to look at yourself a bit and in the first half we weren’t at it, we gave ourselves a mountain to climb. That’s where you have to look and not just blame the ref. There is no point: he is there to make decisions, some are right some are wrong. We know we are there to play.
“We could have been better in the first half and the manager has had us off and just told us to get it up there, get it up there to the big boys and they [Austria] couldn’t handle it, really.”
He added: “But it was frustrating in the end. After a disappointing first half, we were probably the better side in the second half, when I thought we put it up to them.
“Longy had a great header and Murph and, obviously, my one and Jonny and, maybe, that was a penalty,” he said by way of summing up the attacking side of Ireland’s game. “We didn’t maybe have a lot of luck. It just didn’t drop for us.”
Still, he couldn’t quite let the referee’s role in it all go with the 25-year-old adamant, it seemed, that the incident late on which he seemed to pile both Stefan Lainer and the ball into the back of the net should have amounted to a winning goal.
“I think the ref’s made an awkward decision there at the end; it was definitely a goal,” he said.
“I could see why he has not given it but I know it is not a foul . . . I have eyes on the ball the whole way. Anywhere else on the pitch it is not a foul.
“Jonny Walters should have had a penalty as well, I think. But that’s the way it is sometimes. We managed to get a point and we keep the gap between Austria. Now we need to push on for the next game.”
Walters was with him emphatically on the disallowed goal, less so on the penalty but the most striking thing, perhaps, was the scale of his satisfaction about the side’s second-half display.
“That’s the sort of tempo we like – the second half is how we want to play,” said the scorer of Ireland’s goal, his 14th in an Ireland shirt. “I think they were on the back foot the whole half, but they had chances too in the last 10 when they hit us on the break and Darren Randolph pulled off one good save.
“We’re happy with the way we came back but it would have been nice to have finished it off. We didn’t win but we’re still in it. It’s in our hands.”