Shane Duffy: ‘I feel like I’m a threat, I can score in every game’
Republic stalwart not fussy about O’Neill’s formation – once he is centrally involved
Shane Duffy: “They [Wales] were just the better team on the night but obviously we didn’t help it by the way we played; it wasn’t good enough for an international team at this level. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
Shane Duffy believes he is a centre-back who has more goals in him but when it is suggested that he might take a lead from Bohemians’ Ian Morris and let fly from 45 yards out, he is confident it would end badly.
“I’d be getting dragged off by Martin if I tried that,” he says with a laugh.
Duffy is clearly entertained by Morris claiming after Monday’s cup semi-final in Cork that the phenomenal long-range effort was in his top five goals.
“If that’s in his top five,” says the Derry born defender, “I’d like to see the other four. Oh my God!”
After a little frustration on the scoring front last season, Duffy has two already in the current Premier League campaign, one of them in the 3-2 win over Manchester United.
Two in eight mark him out as one of O’Neill’s more potent threats on current form but even the two in 21 he has managed over the course of his international career to date has him almost precisely on course to match the eight in 80 return achieved by Richard Dunne, long the defensive linchpin of the Ireland side whose mantle he has sort of assumed.
“I feel like I can score in every game,” he insists.
“I feel like I’m a threat at set-pieces in the box. Every time we get a corner, I feel I can score. I feel like I’ll always get a chance. But it’s up to me to work hard and try to score more goals.
“It’s obviously not the most important thing that I have to worry about,” he quickly adds, however, “that’s my defending and keeping clean sheets.”
The clean sheet against West Ham at the weekend was Brighton’s first of those this season and Ireland head into this double-header under quite a cloud after having conceded nine times in their last two competitive games.
Duffy is still at a bit of a loss as to how things went quite so badly in Cardiff but readily accepts that Wales imposed themselves on a game O’Neill’s men never got into until it was far too late.
“It was a difficult night,” he acknowledges. “They just got all over us, second balls, first balls, they kept the ball from us and we could never really get going. They were just the better team on the night but obviously we didn’t help it by the way we played; it wasn’t good enough for an international team at this level.”
Denmark, a year ago, was much the same and O’Neill seems set to shake things up a little as part of the effort to avoid a repeat. Duffy, the archetypal big Irish centre-back may find himself operating in a three but if he is remotely concerned by the relative unfamiliarity of the role, he doesn’t show it.
“It’s just about adapting, obviously. It’s still the same basics of defending – winning tackles and headers. We have played it a few times already. But then ask any footballer and they have probably played every formation out there.
“In training with Brighton we do it; we played it last year against Chelsea and I played it a few times here . . . so it can work and it’s a nice formation if you get it right.”
Asked about the pros and cons of the different roles he might be handed, he talks for a while about the need to link up with the wing back and be mindful of the space he leaves behind him when pressing forward if he is on one side of the three and to command the area in front of him he is at its heart.
Ultimately, he says, however, he doesn’t mind where O’Neill decides to use him. “As long as I am in the team, that’s all that matters really.”
Inevitably, the suggestion is made that getting through the defensive side of these games might be that little bit easier if Declan Rice was there, patrolling in midfield, looking to snuff out the danger.
But Duffy, who made his own call on his international future almost a decade ago, says Rice is entitled to be left alone for however long it takes to resolve matter in his own head, and heart.
“I’ve been asked about it quite a lot and I just feel that he just has to make his own decision,” he says, “don’t let no-one else get involved in it and just do what he feels. If he feels that he wants to go other ways, at least he won’t look back and regret it in the long term.
“If I was speaking to him, that’s all I would say to him; ‘Just make sure no-one influences you and just you pick what you feel in your heart and don’t regret it when you’re older’. Something like that.”