Shane Duffy following his Ireland return: ‘I never took a cap for granted in my life. It was quite tough watching when you've been part of it for so long.’

Shane Duffy battling with Cristiano Ronaldo

Shane Duffy battling with Cristiano Ronaldo Credit: Eddie Lennon (left) and Peter Fitzpatrick (right)

Macdara Ferris reports from FAI HQ

It has been a difficult time for Shane Duffy who until last Thursday’s game in Paris hadn’t played for Ireland in over a year, had been left out of the squad since last November and frozen out of first team football with first Celtic and then Fulham.

With the defensive talent available for Ireland, did he wonder if he mightn’t make it back to pulling on a green jersey? “You always believe in yourself,” said Duffy when he spoke to the media on the eve of Sunday’s match against the Netherlands.

“I never took a cap for granted in my life. Sometimes you don't know when your last one is and listen, it's always a privilege to get called up for your country. Every time it's a special feeling.

“Of course I missed it, it was quite tough watching when you've been part of it for so long. I know myself week in week out what I can offer. It was about taking that step to get to that level.”

The first step was leaving Fulham (where he made just five Premier League appearances off the bench) for Norwich City where he has got back into the groove of playing football – lining out for all 90 minutes plus in each of the Canaries’ first five games in the Championship (where they sit fifth in the early season table).

“I was on the bench a lot (with Fulham) and wasn't playing regular football and someone my size and the way I play, I need constant football to get the best version of me. I've had difficult moments in my life and I have dealt with them. I'm a strong character and I can come back from things and I keep coming back.”

The Derry man describes himself “in a good place” now and feels “the fittest I’ve been – the more games I’m playing, better I’m getting.” He admitted to being excited being back in the Ireland squad this week.  

“It’s been a while so I was really excited when I first came in,” said the 31-year-old who has earned 56 internationals caps (and scored seven goals).

“The game the other night didn't go our way of course (2-0 defeat away to France) but it was still a special feeling being back out there, with the jersey back on and trying to get the win for the country. It's been an enjoyable week.

I was just happy to get my personal life and my football life back in order and to get back playing again with a smile on my face. I feel good and I feel fit, so I'm happy where I am.”