Shane Patrick Michael Anthony Duffy (Irish: Seán Pádraig Micheál Antaine Ó Dubhthaigh) is an Irish footballer currently playing for Everton F.C. in the English Premiership.
Born in the walled-city of Derry in the north-west of Ireland on January 1st 1992, Duffy honed his footballing ability at the internationally renowned youth football club, Foyle Harps. Joining the Galliagh-based club aged 12, he excelled at both centre back and central midfield, winning numerous club honours and always demonstrating his competitive thirst for glory. Indeed, throughout his successful youth career in Derry with Foyle Harps, Duffy was ever-present in the Derry and District League select teams which competed nationally in events such as the Foyle Cup and also internationally in events such as the Tivoli Cup in Denmark in 2005 and the Copa Catalunya Cup held in Spain in 2006. Certainly, Duffy's commitment to the Derry and District League during these competitions saw him win numerous accolades and widespread recognition as an extremely promising talent. Duffy also played for Gaelic football team Doire Colmcille CLG in his youth and was considered to be an integral part of their youth teams.
His commitment paid off with a call-up to the County Derry under-15 team for the 2007 Milk Cup competition held in County Derry. Despite the team not enjoying much success, Duffy's sterling performances against the youth teams of Chelsea F.C., AIK Stockholm and Athletico Medea earned him a call-up to the Northern Ireland under-16 team to compete in the Victory Shield, versus England, Scotland and Wales' respective youth teams. With a host of teams already trailing him, including English giants Manchester United and Arsenal and Scottish team Glasgow Celtic, Duffy's participation in this international tournament would prove to be extremely instrumental in cementing his reputation as an exciting and promising talent. The Northern Ireland team finished second in the competition and Duffy coolly scored a decisive penalty versus England in the opening game. Everton manager, David Moyes, who was at the game to watch his young striker José Baxter, was impressed by Duffy's performance and wasted no time in offering the young Irishman a trial at the Merseyside club.
With over 15 top-flight clubs expressing strong interest in the Derry native, Everton eventually emerged the victors in the battle to secure the young man's signature, when he signed a scholarship and two-year contract with the Toffees in the summer of 2008. However, Duffy's arrival onto the youth scene at Everton was quite slow and was painfully hindered by a hip injury which he suffered during a pre-season game in August. Such an injury, which ruled him out for approximately 6 weeks, was a premature set-back and required Duffy to work extra hard to re-gain the fitness levels one expects of a top-flight footballer. Nevertheless, Duffy's resilience was evident when he broke into the youth team in October, contributing a number of impressive performances. Duffy truly announced his complete arrival after his injury days after his 17th birthday in January 2009 when he emphatically headed home the winner against bitter rivals Liverpool F.C. The towering centre-half was subsequently awarded with the Everton Young Player of the Month for January and his international career also began to progress dramatically.
Duffy won 5 under-16 caps for Northern Ireland in 2007, even scoring a goal against England in the Victory Shield. In January 2008, he had been drafted into the Northern Ireland under-17 team and eventually made 2 appearances in March. However, the Republic of Ireland were alerted to Duffy's escalating reputation and in June 2008, invited him to a training camp in Dublin, where he impressed coaches. Due to Ireland's unique position with regard to national self-determination (as outlined in the Belfast Agreement), people born on the island of Ireland have the right to decide what nationality they are and as such, players born in the North have the right to consider themselves 'Irish' or 'British', thus allowing them to legitimately represent either Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland. This has seen numerous players born in the North declare for the Republic of Ireland (Darron Gibson and Duffy's former team-mate, Patrick McEleney for example) and it has generated much discontent and condemnation, particularly for the I.F.A., who effectively see it as a form of 'poaching'. However, since Duffy's father, paternal grandparents and maternal grandmother are from Co. Donegal, no such argument could have arisen. Unfortunately, before the Republic of Ireland youth manager, Sean McCaffrey could call Shane up for the Republic of Ireland, Shane 'honoured a promise' to travel to Liechtenstein to play with the Northern Ireland under 17 team. Upon hearing that Duffy had been attending training camps with the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland manager, Nigel Worthington took measures to ensure that Duffy was included in the under-20 Northern Ireland Milk Cup squad. In light of no subsequent call-up from the F.A.I., Duffy gladly accepted the tremendous opportunity offered to him. He was the youngest player in the squad at only 16 and played a bit-part in the successful campaign, which saw the Northern Ireland team lift the famous trophy.
Duffy made a further 3 performances for the Northern Ireland under-19 team and following a string of impressive performances for Everton reserves, including a man-of-the-match performance versus Manchester United reserves (which led to United legend Arthur Albiston heaping praise on him), Nigel Worthington included him in the Northern Ireland 'B' squad to face Scotland 'B' in a friendly game in May 2009 . Northern Ireland 'B' suffered a 3-0 defeat, but Duffy clearly had persuaded Worthington of his calibre in the 30 minutes he played. Remarkably, on May 20th, much to the surprise of both the media and the player, Nigel Worthington named Duffy in his 19-man senior squad to face world champions Italy on June 6th. Worthington defended his decision by stating that he wished to dispel any interest from the Republic of Ireland and emphasised his faith in Duffy's potential. The 17-year old needed no persuasion in the face of such an offer and spoke of his excitement at the prospect of facing the greatest players in the world:
It's a big experience and I didn't expect it. I'm made up. I can't even picture it, I'm speechless!However, despite being named as a substitute, Duffy was the only one out of the seven substitutes who did not play a part in the game due to a mutual pre-match agreement between Nigel Worthington and Marcello Lippi to utilise only six out of the seven substitutes. The noticeably weakened Northern Ireland team were nevertheless soundly beaten 3-0 by the Italians in Arena Garibaldi, Pisa. Worthington described his regret at not being able to cap the gifted defender, claiming that he had been 'first class' throughout the season. Therefore, since he did not feature, Duffy would still technically be eligible to represent the Republic of Ireland at international level, if that opportunity were to arise.