ONE of two Londonderry men plying their footballing trade at Premier league side, Everton has told of the pride he felt when he first pulled on the famous blue shirt and ran onto the Goodison Park pitch.
The tale of Shane Duffy’s rise through the Toffees’ ranks, is told in a new book highlighting the history of St Joseph’s Boys’ School, in the historic Creggan area of the city.
As well as the highlights, of course, there was one particular low moment, when not only was his career at stake, so too was his life.
After suffering a freak injury while training with the Republic of Ireland squad, Duffy owed his life to the quick-thinking of team medics who stablised him before he was rushed for a life-saving operation to repair the severed Hepatic artery.
‘Tales from Westway - 50 years of St Joseph’s Boys School’ will be launched Tuesday, December 4, priced £9.95., from Guildhall Press.
In the excellent chapter, ‘Duffy’s determination to make it,’ one of the book’s authors, Dermot Liddy interviewed the former St Joseph’s student, who looks set for a bright future at both Everton and on the international scene, with the Republic of Ireland.
‘Premiership footballer, Shane Duffy is one of the few past pupils to make the top grade in English football.
Shane plays as a defender for the English Premiership team, Everton FC. He wears the squad number 34 and at six foot four inches tall his preferred position is centre half.
Shane’s rise to the top is quite remarkable. Just a few months after leaving school in June 2008 he was offered a scholarship to play for the Everton Academy.
Playing for his local club Foyle Harps, his talent was recognised. Shane who comes from Galliagh played at all the different age levels for Saint Joseph’s. He also played for the Derry and District team in the Foyle Cup and played for County Londonderry in the Milk Cup. In November 2008 at the tender age of 16 Shane left his native Derry and followed his dream.
His progression through the Everton ranks was rapid. He played for the Under 18 Everton team soon after joining them. His commanding displays in the Everton youth teams enabled him to move into the reserve team.
Shane’s progression continued in the summer of 2009. The Everton manager, David Moyes, named him in the clubs pre-season friendly games. His first goal for the Toffees arrived in the friendly 4-1 win over Rochdale. Shane recalls this moment: “I remember when David (Moyes) told me he was playing me and a few others for the first team in the friendly fixtures in August 2009. I was very excited and knew it was a great opportunity to impress the boss. It is a great feeling to score a goal in any game but when it’s your first it is something special. It was against Rochdale and it was a decent strike. The ball was crossed in from a corner and I hit it on the volley not bad for a centre half.”
In December 2009 at only 17-years-old Shane made his professional debut for Everton. Shane’s first appearance for the Blues was in the UEFA Europa League game against AEK Athens in the Spyros Louis Stadium. Shane replaced the injured defender, Sylvain Distin in the 17th minute. Recalling his debut he said: “It was a really bad night. The weather was awful. It rained the whole game. Sylvain had hamstring bother and I was told to get warmed up as I was being put on. All the emotions began. I was nervous, excited but determined to do well. We were winning one nil when I came on as a sub. I wanted to perform well and just make sure we did not concede a goal. My debut was over in a flash but I enjoyed every second I was on that pitch. We won the game one nil which made my first game for the senior team all the more better.”
Shane’s senior debut obviously impressed the manger as he was selected to play his home debut at Goodison Park against Everton’s next opponents in the Europa League, BATE Borisov of Belarus. “I was so proud to wear the blue shirt and run out at Goodison Park. There were thousands of fans there and I had butterflies in my stomach. Words cannot describe how I felt that night. It was so emotional. It was just a fantastic feeling that I was living my boyhood dream. I was told I was playing a few days before so I was so excited. It has to be one of the best moments of my life.”
“I just wanted to play well and not make any mistakes. Thankfully I played OK and completed the full 90 minutes. It is very rewarding when the manager places his trust in your ability. It gives you a great lift and builds up your confidence. My home debut give me all that and it also gave me a real taste of competitive football at a very high level.”
His footballing skills caught the eye of the coaches at Northern Ireland international level. Shane has played for Northern Ireland at Under 16, 17, 19, 21 and B level. The Northern Ireland manager, Nigel Worthington, called Shane up to the full Northern Ireland squad for an international friendly against Italy in June 2009. Shane was an unused substitute.’
Liddy continues: ‘In 2010 Shane opted to switch his international allegiance to the Republic of Ireland which caused quite a stir. This prompted the Irish Football Associated to take a case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). At the time several footballers who had represented Northern Ireland at youth level decided to play at senior level for the Republic of Ireland. The IFA had taken their course of action to prevent other players switching their allegiance. However, the CAS ruled in favour of both the Football Association of Ireland and FIFA stating that the FAI can use Northern Irish born players who have not been capped at competitive level for Northern Ireland.
It was at his first training camp with the Republic of Ireland that nearly ended his career. Shane suffered a horrific life threatening injury after an innocuous clash with goalkeeper Adrian Walshe during a training game. Shane had to undergo a lifesaving operation at the Mater Hospital in Dublin after he severed his Hepatic artery. Amazingly Shane returned to football only ten weeks later.
Recalling the incident Shane accentuates the positives and eliminates the negatives.
“It was a dark chapter in my career. It is in the past. I just wanted to get out of the hospital and get back to playing football. I always believed that I could. I thank the medical staff who cared for me in the Mater Hospital. They were absolutely brilliant as was Dr O’Byrne from the medical team of the Republic of Ireland. The incident has made me stronger and more mature. I just want to focus on playing football in the future”.’
The book then tells how, on January 11 2012 Shane finally made his Premier League debut, against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane, when he appeared as a second-half substitute.
Liddy writes: ‘A few days later and Shane made his first start in what is arguably one of the best football leagues in the world. His first start faced him against Aston Villa which resulted in a 1-1 draw.
Shane spoke of his Premier League experience: “It was absolutely fantastic to be involved. It was one of the proudest moments of my career. You just go out to be professional and do the job as best you can. It was a very good game at Tottenham. I realised that I was sharing a pitch with the likes of Gareth Bale and Luka Modric. They are top quality players and there I was running around White Hart Lane trying to stop them scoring against Everton. Although I was disappointed we lost that game I was still on an adrenaline high rush after the game. I have come to realise how lucky I am to be playing for a great club like Everton in the Premier league.”
“In the Aston Villa game I started in the Premiership for the first time. It was a great day for the Derry boys at Everton because Darron Gibson who we just signed from Manchester United made his debut. Again I just felt privileged to be playing alongside the likes of Phil Neville, Darron Gibson and Landon Donovan. They are very good footballers and I just want to learn off them. I will listen to their advice and hopefully I will be a better player. We drew the game but we should have won as they had Shay Given in nets and he was simply outstanding that day for Villa.”’