Shane Duffy – “We can win our Nations League group, we just have to start believing”

Shane Duffy believes Ireland should aim to top the UEFA Nations League group to show their intention to raise standards.

he Derryman has welcomed the FAI’s decision to award Stephen Kenny a new contract, saying the dressing room supports the move having seen progress during his tenure.

But the 30-year-old now wants to see that produce results, with the ultimate aim of qualifying for Euro 2024 in Germany.

Ireland’s only competitive games this year are in the Nations League group with Scotland, Armenia and Ukraine, although the status of the games against Ukraine is in doubt due to the Russian invasion.

Duffy thinks Kenny’s side has serious reason to believe they can get out of their pool.

“I think we can win the group and I’m not saying that in advance,” said Duffy ahead of tomorrow’s friendly against Belgium at the Aviva Stadium.

“The way we go and the belief that we have, I think we can go and win. I think that would be a successful start and keep it up.

“For me, that’s what we need to believe and strive for as a country – that we can win groups and qualify for tournaments.

“It comes from us, from you (media), from the fans. And why not? You can see the progress we are making now.

“When we had a difficult start we always said that the young players would benefit and we see that now.

“We collect results. Hopefully we can win the Nations League (group) and have a good qualifying campaign and set the standards for ourselves and excite the whole nation.

“I think it’s a pretty balanced group and we can go there and do our best and that belief will take us further for the European Championship qualifiers.”

Duffy will be 32 in 2024 and knows he can’t afford to let too many more tournament opportunities pass him by. He welcomed the news of the application for Euro 2028 and did not rule out staying on stage until then.

“You never say never, I saw players play until they were 36, 37, 38, 39, 40 years old,” he replied, “you never know if I’m still at a good level and playing well.”

However, in his eyes the focus is now immediate, particularly after surviving the worst period of his career to play his way back into the Brighton side this season. For this reason, he did not want to play with questions about his contract, which expires next year.

“I don’t even think about things like that,” he says. “From where I’ve been in my life and career, it’s all about enjoying every game, every day. Whatever happens, football is a fun sport and anything can happen. I love being in Brighton, it’s home to me and I will always be there until they tell me I’m not. I’m right there. I don’t look that far down the line.”

A year ago this week, Duffy was on the bench for the infamous World Cup qualifying loss to Luxembourg.

He had no problem with that as he was in the middle of a hot stint at Celtic. In fact, he later spoke of appreciating how Kenny handled a sticky situation. Duffy was used in a friendly against Qatar and also played at summer camp before bowing his head and making changes in his life to salvage his Premier League career.

There is no questioning Duffy’s place in the manager’s plans for the future and he is happy there are no further questions about the Dubliner’s deal.

“It wasn’t a big problem for the players,” he replied, “we always believed that he was the right person for the job. Well I did it anyway so it’s nice that it’s behind us and we can move on and the goal is the Euros, that’s the ultimate goal.

“We have the plan ready and it is now up to us to implement it. It’s exciting, like I said, we all believe in Stephen and the coaching staff here and the progress we’ve made over the past two years.

“I fully support and am happy that Stephen is still here and I think I speak for everyone in the squad that we are like this, we are all on the right track and that’s good.” Shane Duffy – “We can win our Nations League group, we just have to start believing”

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