It was nearly the definition of a ‘friendly’ game. The Republic of Ireland’s Development and Amateur teams were playing against each other in what was nothing more than a training match. 18-year-old Shane Duffy, a promising centre- back, then on the books of Everton, clashed with the Amateur side’s goalkeeper, Adrian Walsh. Nothing seemed untoward until Duffy didn’t get up after the collision. Medical staff would later call it a “freak accident”. The young defender had lacerated his liver, and would lose 3.6 litres of blood. He was rushed to the Mater hospital where his life was saved by an emergency operation. 6 years on, Shane Duffy’s career has recovered to a point where he’s now on the brink of Premier League return.
A dramatic international ENTRANCE
Born in Derry, Shane Duffy began his underage international career with Northern Ireland. Appearing in matches from the Under 16’s to the Under 21’s, it wasn’t until 2010 when Duffy switched allegiance. This was the same year he suffered the life-threatening injury. The Irish team surgeon, Professor John O’Byrne credited the Mater’s staff with saving Duffy’s life:
‘Shane sustained a laceration to his liver and was rushed to the Mater hospital for emergency surgery. Gerry McEntee and the intensive care staff in the Mater must be credited for their expertise and fast response which in no uncertain terms saved Shane’s life’
While Duffy was lying on the pitch with blood gushing abdomen, he wasn’t thinking about playing again. His only thought was whether he would live or not. Alan Byrne, the Irish team doctor, said at the time:
“Shane was very frightened. He thought he was going to die”
Brian Duffy, the player’s father, also feared the worst when his son didn’t get up from the collision.
“There was serious concern that we could have lost Shane in the ambulance – he was in severe pain. I should have been burying my son as the doctors and professors say they have never heard the like of it. If it wasn’t for the work of the physio, doctors and nurses, Shane would have been dead.
FROM BLACKBURN TO BRIGHTON
After being released from the Mater hospital, Duffy spent three months out of action before returning to light training. Ten months after the accident, Duffy’s remarkable comeback was complete as he lined up for Burnley against Ipswich Town, after signing an emergency loan deal from Everton. Duffy would struggle to break through with the Toffees and further loan spells would occur at Scunthorpe and Yeovil. In September 2014, Everton decided to accept a bid from Blackburn Rovers for Duffy. The centre-back would be starting a new chapter of his career at Ewood Park.
Duffy would make 22 appearances in all competitions before a knee injury ended his first season prematurely. After the horrible incident back in 2010, the tough-tackling defender was able to keep things in perspective:
“The operation went well this morning on my knee, I’m gutted to miss the rest of the season but will come back stronger, I’ve been through worse.”
Coming back stronger is exactly what Duffy did in the 2015/2016 season. 42 appearances showed that he had fully come through the injury. As a defender, he also showed an eye for goal. His strike versus Brentford was voted by Blackburn fans as their goal of the season. While Duffy excelled, Rovers were struggling. Years of mismanagement had translated to ineffective performances on the pitch. Managers were being replaced on a regular basis, so it must have been a relief when Brighton came calling last summer.
Chris Hughton, the ex-Irish international full-back identified his fellow countryman as one of the missing pieces of their promotion puzzle. An excellent 2015/2016 campaign saw Brighton just miss out on the automatic spots, before defeat in the play-offs ended their season. Such was the confidence Hughton has in Duffy, the club broke their own transfer record to sign the defender in a 4 million deal.
Shane Duffy has certainly found the right club. In an extremely competitive league, Brighton currently sit top of the pile. They’re two points ahead of pre-season favourites, Newcastle United, and also have a game in hand. Duffy has also played an integral role in their rearguard effort. The Seagulls have only conceded 15 goals in 24 matches, making them the best defence in the league.
FUTURE IRISH CAPTAIN?
Four years on from his operation in the Mater, Shane Duffy made his international debut in a friendly against Costa Rica. His progress would lead to a call-up to the final squad for last year’s European Championships. Duffy didn’t participate in the first two matches, but was part of the team that famously defeated Italy. Unfortunately, his tournament ended prematurely when he was sent-off for a foul on Griezmann.
Bouncing back has been a recurring theme of Duffy’s career, and he has been central to Ireland’s impressive start to their World Cup qualifying campaign. Most recently, he put in a commanding performance as Ireland defeated Austria 1-0 away from home. While his total appearances have yet to hit double digits, some are predicting Duffy will be a future Irish captain. As a player who has come through so much adversity, perhaps that’s just who the Boys in Green need.
What do you think? Is Shane Duffy a future Irish captain in the making? Vote below..