After just four games for Scunthorpe United, 19 year old on-loan Irish centre-half Shane Duffy has shown Iron fans exactly why he is widely considered to be one of the most promising young footballers in Britain. Indeed, after slotting straight into the defence, he has impressed so much, that he has earned a month-long extension, much to the joy of Scunthorpe manager Alan Knill. However, despite his youth, Duffy has an abundance of experience behind him.
Many football fans might be unaware, but Duffy’s journey is an utterly miraculous one. At the tender age of 17, the prodigious young defender made his debut for Everton in a crucial Europa League tie away to AEK Athens, where, after replacing Sylvain Distin after 12 minutes, he helped the Toffees to a clean sheet as they triumphed by one goal to nil. His second Everton perf
ormance came in the same year in a home tie against BATE Borisov, where despite losing 1-0, he received the man-of-the-match award, eliciting the highest praise from former Chelsea and Everton star Pat Nevin, who marvelled at his leadership and commented that the young man’s reading of the game belied his age. Unsurprisingly, as he progressed, he went on to captain Everton’s reserve team and also won Everton’s Reserve Player of the Year.
The Irishman has always shown maturity beyond his years. For example, he had earned under-21 and B international honours for Northern Ireland aged only 17 and even earned a call up to the Northern Ireland senior team before he opted to represent the Republic of Ireland. Aged only 18, he earned a call up to Giovanni Trapattoni’s senior squad, where after one game the Irish
media described him as a “gem”. Indeed Cathal Dervan compared him to two of Ireland’s greatest defenders when he said, “If anything he’s probably a Mick McCarthy with skills more akin to David O’Leary”. However, while on duty, Duffy suffered a life-threatening injury, rupturing his hepatic artery in a collision with a goalkeeper. Nevertheless, the young man defied medical predictions and returned to action less than three months later in a pre-season friendly, such was his burning desire to play again.
The end of the 2010-2011 season saw Duffy go on loan to Championship play-off hopefuls, Burnley, with Eddie Howe stating that he signed Duffy “with a view to next season”. Duffy’s stint at Burnley was ultimately frustrating, as he only managed one appearance in 28 days. Indeed, it was the end of a frustrating year for the Irishman. The 2011-2012 season, however, is shaping up to be a much more positive one and Duffy will be hoping that success will follow. Already he has amassed three under-21 caps for the Republic of Ireland and four first team appearances for Scunthorpe, where he is already considered by Alan Knill to embody everything a centre-half should be: he is strong in the tackle, dominant in the air, comfortable on the ball and above all else, he leads the back-line.
It appears that, after overcoming the obstacles, the young defender is finally beginning to realise his undoubted potential.