It’s a big season for Everton’s Shane Duffy. Captain of the Irish U21 side, the Derryman is eyeing a gap in the Toffees’ back-line and a return to Giovanni Trapattoni’s Republic plans. Having suffered a life-threatening injury on international duty, Duffy knows all about comebacks.
The man at the centre of a tug-of-war between Northern Ireland, whom he had represented at under-age level, and the Republic of Ireland, it was Duffy’s case that prompted the IFA to go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The judgement ultimately went in favour of the southern neighbours and Duffy has remained in Giovanni Trapattoni’s thoughts.
After joining Everton in 2008 as a youth-team player, the defender made his first team début versus AEK Athens in the UEFA Europa League in December 2009, coming on for the injured Sylvain Distin.
The boy who had played with Foyle Harps in Derry seemed to have the world at his feet. Then came the dream call from Republic boss Giovanni Trapattoni to report to the Irish training camp in Malahide in May 2010
FAI team surgeon Professor John O’Byrne and doctor Alan Byrne attended to Duffy on the pitch before he was rushed to the nearby Mater Hospital in Dublin for emergency surgery.
“Shane was very frightened. He thought he was going to die,” said Byrne afterwards.
“Shane collided with a player in a way that you would see thousands of times in football matches. It was a freak injury that in another 100 years of medicine, we may never see again.”
An emotional assistant manager Marco Tardelli commented at the time of speaking with Duffy’s father Brian as his own son was around the same age.
Brian told the BBC: “We knew there was something wrong when Shane didn’t get up. 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.”
Duffy suffered a severed artery near his liver and required an emergency operation to address the problem. At one point there was 3.6 litres of blood in his abdomen, but the procedure was a success.
Duffy made a full recovery and was back in action within ten weeks playing in a reserve friendly versus Sligo Rovers. Loan moves to Burnley and Scunthorpe followed before he made his Premier League début at White Hart Lane on 11 January 2012, and marked his first start three days later against Aston Villa.
In February 2012 Duffy was called up to replace Richard Dunne in the Irish squad for the friendly with the Czech Republic.
He made three substitute appearances for Everton last term but was an ever-present on the bench. He has admitted himself it was a difficult period in terms of game-time but with new manager Roberto Martinez in charge, it could prove a big season for the Derryman.
Fellow defender John Heitinga, who made 30 appearances last year, has expressed a desire to return to Holland. The 29-year-old admitted he had a poor season with many calling for Duffy to replace him early in the campaign. The Irishman is knocking on the door but earlier this year he confirmed he could consider leaving Goodison Park in a bid to get games.
The Toffees don’t have much cash to splash but with David Moyes now in place at Old Trafford, it’s a chance for Duffy to impress under the new man in charge Roberto Martinez. Under Moyes, Everton reached the qualifying stages of the Champions League and have consistently pushed for a top-four finish. Last season they ended in sixth place and despite the Scotsman’s departure, betting sites at www.bookmakers.co.uk still place the Toffees as strong contenders for the European spots.
For the moment Duffy looks like biding his time to see how Martinez beds in. The former Wigan manager is actively seeking to bolster his squad and the Irishman is under contract until 2015 having signed a new deal in 2012.
Still just 21 years of age, Duffy is captain of the Irish U21 team. Last May he skipped club-mate and international exile Darron Gibson’s stag party to lead the side in a friendly against Denmark. Noel King’s squad is preparing for the UEFA Championship qualifiers later this year but if Duffy can force his way into the Everton first team ahead of the new season, with an August friendly with Wales to come and question marks over Richard Dunne’s future, Giovanni Trapattoni could look again to the comeback kid.