- 27 May 02
And you will know him by the trail of defenders... almost as elusive off the pitch as he is on it, the 23-year-old from Ballyboden is being tipped by many to be one of the sensations of the forthcoming World Cup. But away from the pitch, you're unlikely to find 'the duffer' turning up in the pages of Hello. Though you may bump into him at a u2 gig...
Summer is here and all around the country, the thoughts of men and women turn to 23 young men who are journeying far across land and sea to do battle with 31 other countries from all the corners of the globe in a bid to become the greatest football team on the planet.
Thankfully, the nation has been spared the sickening drama of agonising over Roy Keane’s temperamental knee, his cruciate ligament or his non-elastic hamstring, as the fulcrum of the Irish team has managed to stay in shape for our far eastern odyssey. The newspapers have also been gratifyingly free of the hysterical ‘Will Quinn’s Back Last 12 Hours In A Plane?’ headlines that many feared would engulf the nation in the run-up to the world’s greatest football tournament, at a time when, traditionally, the fate of so many seems to be tied up in the injury-free fortunes of so few.
The last year or so has seen another name join the list of the ‘Please Jesus, let him get through the game uninjured’ brigade. There he is, standing forlorn-looking on the left wing, hands on hips and puffing like an octogenarian after a steep climb, looking for all the world like his presence on the pitch is some bizarre mistake… until he gets the ball. Then, this blond Ballyboden native turns into something else entirely, the ball seemingly under the spell of his foot as he twists, turns, jinks and glides through defenders with the grace and elegance of a ballet dancer. Damien Duff is the type of player you feel could emerge from a monsoon, dry as a bone, shrugging his shoulders and mumbling something about “dodging the raindrops”.