Shane Duffy should come straight back into Martin O’Neill’s starting XI for next month’s World Cup double header against Georgia and Moldova.
That’s the verdict of former Ireland centre-half Kenny Cunningham, who believes the Ireland manager should build his defence around the new Brighton stopper.
Duffy was suspended for the opening qualifier in Serbia on Monday, following his red card in the last 16 defeat to France at the summer’s European Championship.
On top of that, he had scored three own-goals and been sent off as well in a torrid final pair of appearances for Blackburn Rovers before moving to Chris Hughton’s Brighton last month.
But Cunningham is such a fan of the 24-year-old that he’s willing to overlook that shocking run of form, and throw him right back into the Irish team.
“I’d never make a judgement on someone scoring an own-goal [or two] in a game, I’d make an assessment on what I’ve seen over 90 minutes, and for a red card — it’s the same,” Cunningham said, speaking at the launch of eir Sport’s European Football coverage.
“If you watch those games over 90 minutes and assess his full performance, okay, but I wouldn’t make an assessment on the stand out stats alone.
“And if someone says he’s been patchy over the last few weeks and he shouldn’t be starting because of that, f***ing hell, you might as well just throw balls up in the air [when picking teams].
“I’d make a judgement call on how he’s played in the international jersey, and how he’s carried himself.
“There’s many factors in how you select a player, and everyone’s different.
“Some players can have poor club form, and you know what, it doesn’t bother them — they turn up and give them the shirt and off they go. Others you may have to factor it in, but everyone’s different.”
Cunningham, who won 72 caps in his nine-year international career, is a big fan of Duffy. And it’s what he has said just as much as what the Derry man has done that’s impressed.
“Shane’s performances over the last six to 12 months have had him pushing strongly and he got the starting place in the summer.
“That was a huge decision Martin made in the summer, when he brought him in for the Italy game, and dropped Josh [O’Shea] to the bench.
“When you make a decision like that you don’t make it for one game only, so I think potentially, if Shane was available for the game v Serbia, I would have expected him to play, so I think he’ll be starting next month.
“I’m a fan of John and I think the partnership of Richard Keogh and Ciaran Clark in the two play-off games against Bosnia was one of the highlights of those games, I thought they were rock solid.
“I’d be happy with any pairing, given the pool of talent we have there, but given Shane’s performances in the lead-up to the Championships, the game in Dublin... he was coming into the squad, getting a second or third cap and being as vocal as he was in those games, that was the most impressive thing.
“Forget about the technical side of his game, his positioning etc, just how he carried himself on the pitch, giving information, and even digging people out, that’s a very good sign, of someone with a very strong personality.
“Then there’s his physicality, he absolutely dominates in the air, he really does, maybe not since Richard [Dunne] have we had one of them. These lads are powerful, they absolutely dominate people, and he looks like he can do that and offer a threat in the opposition box, which he has done already.
“Going forward, I’m looking probably at Shane Duffy and AN Other.”
eir Sport will broadcast all six of Dundalk’s Europa League group games on a free to view basis. The eir Sport pack is the only place to view the rest of the Europa League action including all of Manchester United’s games as well as every Champions League game.
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