Shane Duffy takes long route to the top
Shane Duffy will complete a long and arduous journey if he gets the chance to go into Euro 2016 battle with Zlatan Ibrahimovic on Monday evening.
The 24-year-old Republic of Ireland defender took a step down when he went out on loan to Yeovil from Everton back in September 2013 in a bid to get the regular football he craved having struggled to make the breakthrough at Goodison Park.
Almost three years on, he has a very real chance of forcing his way into Martin O'Neill's starting line-up as Ireland launch their Group E campaign at the Stade de France, and that would mean getting up close and personal with Sweden's talisman Ibrahimovic.
Asked if the prospect might give him sleepless nights, Duffy said: "No, not at all.
"You have to try to thrive off playing against those kind of players. You want to try to do well against the best and hopefully if I am picked to play, I'll thrive off it and try to do the best I can."
It would be a first for Duffy if he did lock horns with Ibrahimovic, but he is hoping former Arsenal and Tottenham striker Emmanuel Adebayor might give him a helping hand.
He said: "I remember when I was at Everton, I made my debut against Adebayor when he was in his prime and he was similar to Zlatan, tall, gangly, strong.
"Back then, he was a very good striker, so I would put him as similar to Zlatan.
"But I have played against a few - the likes of [Jamie] Vardy and the likes of Harry Kane. [Jermain] Defoe in his prime, he was nippy, sharp and then the likes of Vardy, who has come from the lower leagues.
"I have played against him a few times, so I have played against some top strikers now who have gone on. You wouldn't think back then they would be where they are."
Those frontmen may be surprised too to see where Duffy is on Monday with assistant manager Roy Keane hinting a place in the starting line-up could be his.
Keane said: "A few months ago, it probably would have been touch and go whether he was going to make the squad. But he has impressed everybody with his training and the games he has played and on top of getting in the squad, I think he's got a great chance of making the starting XI.
"He's been a big plus, the last few months and we are delighted to have him involved - and he is very good in both boxes, which is pretty important for a centre-half."
Keane insisted Duffy still has a lot to learn, but the defender is happy to be continuing his education on the big stage.
He said: "I cannot disagree with him, can I? Yes, he's right. I am still learning the game - I've been out a couple of seasons now trying to get myself ready, trying to learn the game a bit and develop, and I feel that I'm doing it slowly, steady.
"But I'm happy the way it's going. Hopefully there's a lot more to come from me and I am just being patient."