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Nations Cup: Tuffey will get big opportunity to impress

Having been part of Nigel Worthington’s Northern Ireland squad for the last three years Jonny Tuffey has learned a thing or two from Maik Taylor.

Now, with Taylor ruled out of tomorrow night’s Carling Nations Cup clash with Scotland in Dublin’s Aviva Stadium, Tuffey will be handed his biggest opportunity yet to show that he’s ready to step in when the 39-year-old calls it a day.

And the Inverness goalkeeper will have to use some of the experience passed on to him by Taylor — a goalkeeper who was regarded as one of the Premier League’s greatest only a few years ago.

Taylor’s excellent performances for Northern Ireland over the last few seasons are all the greater when it is remembered that for the last year-and-a-half he has sat on the Birmingham City bench.

That’s something that has become the norm for Tuffey in the last six months after moving up into the Scottish Premier League with Inverness after being a regular with Partick Thistle.

“I’m not playing as regularly as I would like to,” said Tuffey.

“Inverness won the First Division last season, so it’s been hard to break into the team since I joined in the summer.

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“I have played in the cups and was in the team on Saturday before I came away here which is nice.

“The biggest part is ensuring that you’re tuned in and ready to step up when called upon.

“It does annoy you a little bit if you’re not getting regular games, so it is a case of being mentally strong. It’s all part of the learning curve and I am to improve as much as I can.”

Tuffey and Linfield’s Alan Blayney will be vying for the number one shirt against the Scots. The pair played a half each of the November friendly against Morocco and Nigel Worthington may opt to go with a similar scenario this time around.

Whatever happens, there is little doubt that Tuffey will play and he will be determined to impress.

“Since Maik Taylor is missing through injury I hope that I will have a chance to make an appearance,” said Tuffey.

“Maik is the undoubted number one and rightly so. It just goes to show Maik’s quality when he can just come into the international squad when fit and play, even if he hasn’t been playing much for his club.

“Match fitness is a big concern for international managers, but that’s why it just increases the admiration of someone like Maik. I can’t speak highly enough of him.”

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