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Shane Duffy: 'We cannot be written off for World Cup'

Shane Duffy: 'We cannot be written off for World Cup'
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Ireland face Portugal, Azerbaijan and Serbia in September.

Shane Duffy believes it would be "stupid" to write off the Republic of Ireland's World Cup qualification hopes just two games into the campaign.

Back-to-back defeats by Serbia and minnows Luxembourg in March represented the worst possible start for Stephen Kenny's men and with Portugal, Azerbaijan and the return against Serbia to come in September, their task will not get any easier.

However, central defender Duffy, who played at the Euro 2016 finals, is adamant that there is too much football to be played to yet be certain of how Group A will pan out.

Hungary's Adam Szalai (left) and Republic of Ireland's Shane Duffy battle for the ball in Budapest
Hungary's Adam Szalai (left) and Republic's Shane Duffy battle for the ball in Budapest (Trenka Atilla/PA)

He said: "You always have that belief. It was only a couple of games played and if you write us off now, it would be stupid, I'd say.

"We're just getting going, hopefully, and it's about the performances turning into results and we'll shock a few teams hopefully and kick on.

"We fully believe the manager has the right thing going here and with a little bit of luck with players and Covid and stuff like that, we can kick on."

The qualifier defeats came in the midst of an 11-game run without a win at the start of Kenny's reign and left him having to answer questions over his methods and the overhaul of the squad he has conducted to give youth its chance.

They followed a heart-breaking exit from the Euro 2020 play-offs on penalties in Slovakia – a fixture for which the manager, not for the last time, was deprived of key players by coronavirus protocols.

However, having seen his side end their wait for a victory in Andorra last Thursday evening and then follow it up with a hard-fought 0-0 draw in Hungary on Tuesday night in which youngsters Gavin Bazunu, Caoimhin Kelleher and Adam Idah played key roles, Duffy is confident there is cause for optimism.

He said: "Listen, we're obviously disappointed with the year we've had. We feel we've not really got what we deserved, but that's football and we've been very unlucky with some situations with players injured and Covid.

"We know we have to get better and we know we have to get results in the qualification games. We got off to a bad start, so there's a lot to do, but these 10 days together feels like we're turning a corner and hopefully we can build on it."

On a personal level, 29-year-old Duffy will hope for much the same after enduring an intensely difficult year following his loan move from Brighton to Celtic.

The defender suffered a loss of form and last played for the club on February 14, and was also targeted by social media trolls.

He said: "I think it has been well noted I've had a tough time on and off the pitch. I feel that I've dealt with it as best I can.

"I didn't plan for it to go like this, but that's the setback I've got and I'm big and ugly enough to deal with it and come out the other side.

"This season is over now and I feel mentally I've turned a page, and I'm not going to stop now. I'm going to keep going through the summer and be ready for pre-season and hit the ground running.

"I feel I've had a year off where I haven't played my best stuff and I am ready to get that back next season."

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Thursday's key events


ATHLETICS
· The women's heptathlon continues with the long jump, javelin and 800m, with Katarina Johnson-Thompson now out of contention following an injury (1.10am-1.40pm)
· Andrew Pozzi pursues his dream of an Olympic medal in the men's 110m hurdles final (3.55am)
· Tom Bosworth and Callum Wilkinson are among the British hopes in the men's 20km race walk (8.30am)
· Holly Bradshaw aims to improve on fifth in Rio to challenge Greece's Katerina Stefanidi and Anzhelika Sidorova of Russia for an unlikely medal in the women's pole vault (11am)
· London 2012 champion Kirani James goes up against current world champion Steven Gardiner in the men's 400m final (1pm)

MARATHON SWIMMING
· One of the toughest Olympic events takes place in Tokyo Bay as GB's Hector Pardoe takes on the men's 20km marathon swim (10.30pm Wed)

BOXING
· Galal Yafai takes on takes on Kazakhstan's Saken Bibossinov for a spot in the gold medal bout of the fly (48kg-52kg) class (6.48am)

DIVING
· Lois Toulson and Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix (daughter of First Dates' Fred Sirieix) line up for the women's 10m platform (semi-final 2am; final 7am)

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· Australia face Belgium in the men's final (11am)

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