Football/Soccer

Shane Duffy would head an on-coming bus for the cause: Harry Arter

Shane Duffy trains ahead of the World Cup double-header with Denmark
From Brendan Crossan in Copenhagen

IT was the kind of night where Shane Duffy would have headed cannonballs in Cardiff to keep the Welsh at bay.

Regardless of what happens over the two World Cup play-off ties with Denmark, Duffy’s braveheart performance won’t be bettered.

Duly inspired by Duffy’s seismic display, Harry Arter said the big Derryman would have put his head to an oncoming bus on the night as the Irish scraped a decisive win against Wales to progress to the play-offs.

"It gives us confidence when defending set-pieces,” said Arter. “We have so much confidence in the lads and know they will throw themselves into anything.

"I think that if a bus was coming at Shane Duffy he'd try to get his head on it!

“So it's nice to have that feeling. If the opposition does score from a set-piece, it's going to be an unbelievable header that our lads have just missed.

"It won't be through a lack of not going for it and a will to win."

If James McClean has been the talisman at one end of the field, the granite-like Duffy has been the defensive destroyer at the other end.

Since Euro 2016, Duffy has grown in stature and although he’s a relative baby in terms of international appearances (15), he has quickly emerged as one of the leaders of Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland team.

The 25-year-old Brighton defender is a glowing parable for making a friend out of adversity.

Seven years ago, he suffered a life-threatening liver injury following a freak training ground accident while on international duty, losing nearly four litres of blood during surgery.

Four years later, O’Neill gave him his international recall and last summer he played the shirt off his back at the Euro finals in France.

Roy Keane heaped praise on the towering Duffy in the build-up to tomorrow night’s first leg clash against Denmark in the 38,000-capacity Telia Parken Stadium in Copenhagen.

“It's strange,” said Keane, “we were just talking about it there with the manager watching the training, about how well he has done over the last few years.

“I think I saw Shane three or four years ago when he was on loan at Yeovil, playing against Brighton.

“He's done well, really well. He deserves credit and the fact he is playing most weeks in the Premiership would be a huge help to him.

“He will improve. He has done well considering where he was three years ago. I know you have to start somewhere – Everton, out on loan at Yeovil, getting his move to Blackburn, move to Brighton and you're thinking: 'They've got promoted; will they step up to the plate?'

“He's obviously doing really well at Brighton, and obviously Chris [Hughton] is looking after him there.”

Duffy, who has played in eight of Ireland’s World Cup group qualifiers, has formed a no-nonsense partnership with Newcastle United’s Ciaran Clark at the heart of the Ireland defence.

He’s also had 11 attempts on goal – scoring from a looping header in Georgia – and is second only to James McClean.

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