Belfast Telegraph

Republic's World Cup bid tops Premier ambition: Duffy

 

By Damian Spellman

Shane Duffy will put his Premier League dream on ice as he attempts to help the Republic of Ireland move a step closer to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

The 25-year-old Brighton defender was a frustrated bystander as Chris Hughton's men clinched promotion from the Sky Bet Championship after fracturing a metatarsal which kept him out of the final 11 games of the campaign.

He finally returned to action for his country in a 3-1 friendly defeat by Mexico in New Jersey during the early hours of Friday morning, but while he has the excitement of life in the top flight to look forward to, his immediate focus is on Ireland's qualifier with Austria on June 11.

Duffy said: "They are exciting times. It's hard to put it to one side, but I have got important games coming up here now with Ireland, that's all my focus now.

"My main focus was just trying to get fit for these and I have and now that I'm fit, I want to be a part of it.

"When it's done, I can focus on what's happening next year with the Premier League."

Duffy's injury could hardly have struck at a worse time as it ruled him out of Ireland's qualifier against Wales and his club's ultimately unsuccessful challenge to add the Championship title to their promotion.

The Derryman, who made five Premier League appearances for former club Everton, said: "Obviously the timing of it wasn't great for me.

"I was playing good football. I was playing some of the best I have played - and obviously one of the biggest games in the group I have missed and promotion to the Premier League, I have missed that run-in.

"But mentally, I've got a good family around me and got a good physio for the rehab and I have been back. I could have played the last couple of games of the season, but I didn't risk it.

"I just got training in and my fitness is good now. Obviously, I was aiming to try to get fit for Austria."

Duffy got the full 90 minutes under his belt at the MetLife Stadium as manager Martin O'Neill experimented with a youthful line-up and a three-man defence and saw the Mexicans exploit the Republic's teething problems in clinical fashion.

He said: "Obviously you don't want to lose the game and it was a disappointing night result-wise, but for me, I am delighted. 90 minutes, I felt good.

"My fitness was actually better than I thought it would be. It's another step to where I want to be. It's the road you have to take when you are out for so long."

Duffy will hope for another run-out against Uruguay at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday to put himself in the frame for the Austria game as reinforcements join up with the squad back in Ireland.

However, he may have to put up with more ribbing from team-mate Daryl Murphy, whose Newcastle pipped Brighton to the title on a dramatic final day.

Duffy said with a smile: "He gave me a little bit about it, but I just said it wasn't my fault."

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