The beef between the Republic of Ireland and Denmark has, as Ron Burgundy would put it, escalated quickly. For so long, the pair were nothing more than a pair of nations linked by little more than membership of the EU anda Viking backstory, butfamiliarity has bred serious levels of contempt. On theDanish side at least.
Shane Duffy hasn’t been paying all that much attention to the tirade of negativity coming their way from the Scandinavians. So he says, but then he picks holes in his own indifference with theadmission that “it will be even better when we go out and beat them”.
“We know we are not a crap team, we are a strong team. The team spirit we’ve got here, the things I think they’d wish they could have, obviously. At the end of the day the football is the most important thing, but if you’ve got half the team spirit we have, you’d be a much better team.”
There’s been plenty of that fighting talk from the Irish side ahead of this last Euro 2020 qualifier and Mick McCarthy has impressed the urgency of taking that attitude to the visitors from the off. Duffy suggests that a personal welcome from James McClean would be a fitting introduction. You know what he means.
McCarthy has already gone about setting the tone bynaming Duffy as his captain in the absence of the suspended Seamus Coleman. Somedecisions aren’t easy but the Republic boss admitted that this was a decision that fell into the file marked ‘no-brainer’.
“I’m not saying that he is a director of traffic on the field but he leads right from the front,” said McCarthy who for so long skippered his country from the heart of the back four. “Well, he leads from the back, of course. You know what I mean.
“So the way he does it, the way he goes about himself... Even the times when he... he has a groin strain and you think he can’t play then he comes and plays... He’s got a calf strain and apparently can’t play then he plays twice, so he’s a proper leader.”
Duffy understands andappreciates the honour, and he knows his family will walk that bit taller for hearing it and seeing him lead the team out this evening, but he isadamant that it won’t change his approach for this game.
There won’t be any rousing speeches beforehand, if for no other reason than the fact that this won’t be his first rodeo. He has already captained the U21s numerous times, not to mention Blackburn Rovers and Brighton & Hove Albion.
He was also handed theIreland armband for thelast dregs of that 5-1 loss to Denmark in the World Cup play-off at the Aviva Stadium two years ago.
Lessons were learned that day, and from the others against Denmark in recent times. For Duffy, chief among them is the need for thedefence to push up closer to the midfield and deny Christian Eriksen the space to do so much damage.
“We wanted to score and they scored the away goal,” he says of the 5-1. “We probably panicked and tried to get the goal straight away when we had 60 minutes probably to get a goal and left ourselves open and leaving that much space for Eriksen.
“You could see his quality. Those are things you can learn from two years ago.”
This isn’t a last-chance saloon. The play-offs remain an option if Ireland don’t do the necessary tonight but no-one is interested in contemplating that now. Duffy knows what it is to score against the Danes and he has dreamt of doing it again with a goal that would qualify Ireland for Euro 2020.
The reward would beenormous: not just a place at a major finals but with games to be played here in Dublin too.
“We know it’s going to be a nervy night and it’s going to be tight. Four of the five games (against Denmark) have been draws, so there are no real surprises in what to expect. We know it’s going to be cagey but hopefully we’ll come out this side and we’re more prepared than themthis time.”