While everyone was celebrating Christmas and the New Year, one bit of news that might have gone unnoticed was the fact that legendary Republic of Ireland winger called and end to his playing career. Damien Duff, represented his country 100 times and in my opinion was one of the greatest players ever to leave this island. Damien was the star of Mick McCarthy,s squad that did so well in the 2002 World Cup Finals played in Japan and South Korea, he was also a key member of the squad in the 2012 European Chaampionships.
Damien Duff first came to our attention in the 1997 World Youth Championships which were played in Malaysia. Under manager Brian Kerr,s leadership the team reached the semi final and would eventually claim third spot in the tournament. An achievement that was historic in Irish soccer.
Damien Duff made his full Irish debut in 1998 against the Czech Republic and was lucky enough to reach the milestone of 100 caps before finally retiring from international football. He was a shining light for Ireland over the years and put many a good shift in whilst wearing the green shirt for his country.
His club career took in Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea, Newcastle United, Fulham and Melbourne City before returning home to play for his local Dublin side, Shamrock Rovers. Damien was keen to keep his career going in Ireland, unfortunately his body could not take the stress anymore. Although he has hung up his playing boots, the former winger is now taking his coaching badges. He wants to stay in the game a longtime and this is the perfect way for him to achieve that, as his love for the game still remains.
I once heard a story which was told about a Brian Kerr team talk that was held when he was Republic of Ireland manager. Kerr was going through all the usual chat about open play and set pieces and who was designated to do what. The manager turned calmly to Damien and said " Don't you worry about any of this stuff Duffer, you just do your usual magical stuff for me ". That really summed up Damien for me, he could do anything on a football pitch when he was on top form.
FAI CEO John Delaney also paid tribute to the Dubliner, adding " Damien Duff will always be remembered as one of the greatest to wear an Ireland shirt. It was very pleasing that he chose to come home and finish his career in the SSE Airtricity League, and it is also great to see that he has opted to take his coaching qualifications with the FAI. If Damien,s career comes even close to what he did as a player, well there are even more exciting times ahead ".