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Unsung Irish hero Duff deserves great credit after retirement

Lee Gormley | December 22, 2015

Duff announces retirement at 36

Following a prestigious 20-year playing career at both club and international level, former Republic of Ireland and Chelsea winger Damien Duff announced his retirement this week, calling time after much personal and silverware success.

Soccer - UEFA Euro 2012 - Group C - Italy v Republic of Ireland - Municipal Stadium

The 36-year-old broke through the youth system at Blackburn Rovers before setting off for ventures with Chelsea, Newcastle United and then Fulham, lifting two Premier League trophies, an FA Cup and League Cup with Jose Mourinho’s Blues.

As well as having a huge impact at Stamford Bridge, Duff also helped fellow Londoners Fulham to the 2010 Europa League final, and was key to his nation’s squad for 14 years, in which he earned 100 deserved caps.

Martin O’Neill’s Boys in Green gallantly reached next summer’s Euro 2016, where they are 15/2 with Coral to emerge from a tough Group E, but Dubliner Duff was part of the last travelling Irish side to reach the competition in 2012.

Irish stalwart says farewell

He proudly captained Giovanni Trapattoni’s men that summer, incredibly a decade after leading Ireland out at the 2002 World Cup, before returning home in July last year to join home county club Shamrock Rovers.

Soccer - A-League - Central Coast Mariners v Melbourne City FC - Central Coast Stadium

The Ballyboden-born cult hero first enjoyed a brief stint in the A-League with Melbourne City before his League of Ireland arrival, but has now hung up his boots for good, leaving us with many fond memories from his entertaining and admirable career.

“After much deliberation, I have today decided to bring my professional football career to an end,” Duff said in a statement.

“I know I am a very lucky man..”

“My heart wants me to continue playing but my body has finally won the battle and told me to stop. I’ve lived every young boy’s dream and I know I am a very lucky man.

Soccer - FA Cup - Fourth Round Replay - Fulham v Sheffield United - Craven Cottage

“I would like to thank everyone who has helped me along the journey from schoolboy football in Dublin and moving to England as a teenager right up to today.

“I am extremely proud to have won 100 caps for my country – it was always my greatest pleasure to represent Ireland and I have many magical memories from my international career.”

Mourinho fond of class-act Duff

Despite having lifted England’s top-flight crown on two occasions, as well as its most coveted cup, Duff may not receive the wider appreciation he deserves for his illustrious playing time, but is still regarded very highly by Irish and many of his previous club’s faithful followings.

Soccer - FA Cup - Semi Final - Chelsea v Liverpool - Old Trafford

It wasn’t just the fans that Duff won over with his eccentric play from the wide positions in the Premier League and for Ireland, with his former Blues boss Mourinho holding him in high regards too for his commitment and overall talents.

“I remember that he was one of the guys that left Cobham crying and left the people here crying,” Mourinho previously stated.

“He didn’t want to go but he wants to play every game and he wants to enjoy his football and Chelsea at that time was Duff, [Arjen] Robben, Joe Cole. We had so much. The offer from Newcastle came. He wanted to accept but he didn’t want to.”

Duff breed of a dying kind

In an age when out-and-out modern wingers are slowly dying from the game, Duff was the true definition of such a player, gracing the flanks and terrifying top class full backs with his pace and directness.

“It was one of the guys that left Cobham crying and left people crying here. He had a big influence in our style of play,” Mourinho added.

Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Group G - Anderlecht v Chelsea - Constant Vanden Stock Stadium

“I don’t remember more times for that to play with two left footed players, both together on the wings, changing a lot during the game, creating different kind of problems.

“They were similar but different. They were fantastic players and he’s a player that we have good memories [of].”

Duff was handed his Chelsea debut back in 2003 by current Leicester City boss Claudio Ranieri (10/1 to win PL title), before Mourinho took charge of a dominant side which the Irishman was an integral part of. But over a decade on from that maiden Blues outing and, after a 20-year career at the top, this unsung Irish hero hangs his boots up for ventures new, with plenty of fond memories to look back on.

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