Football: `Special' Duff still nifty at fifty

TONIGHT WILL provide the appropriate tribute for what Brian Kerr, the Republic of Ireland manager, yesterday called a "special talent". Damien Duff, the nation's talisman, will earn his 50th cap against Portugal, the world's ninth-ranked country.

It is a measure of Kerr's work - and Duff's enormous contribution - that Fifa adjudicates that the Irish sit just three places below their opponents in those rankings. Duff will face two of his Chelsea team-mates - Tiago and Paulo Ferreira - and Kerr was quick to praise the progress Duff has made at Stamford Bridge.

"It was a huge challenge for him at Chelsea," Kerr said. "I remember when he went there he felt that it might be a little hard for him. But he has risen to that challenge and shown he has the mental strength and physical ability to survive as well as the technical ability."

His value to Chelsea, especially with Arjen Robben injured, has now rocketed beyond the pounds 17m they paid for him. When that deal was done, Blackburn Rovers privately warned that Chelsea would not get much more than 30 games a season out of Duff, such was his propensity to injury. The 25-year-old Irishman is proving that wrong, although his club manager Jose Mourinho will hope that he does not play the 90 minutes tonight.

Duff will want to. It is his way. "He's a top player," said Kerr, who first plucked the Dubliner as a 17-year-old to play in the Under-20 World Cup finals in Malaysia. His contribution since then has been immense. Kerr said: "His performances have been fantastic. He is prepared to do whatever is required for the team. He is a special talent and he looks like he is right on top of his game."

One frustration has been his lack of goals - just six - but the triumvirate that is emerging with Duff, Robbie Keane and Andy Reid is, Kerr declared, "some of the most exciting stuff we have seen for a long time". All three, he said, are "street-type" players - shrewd and tricky on the ball.

The Irish go into this match without Roy Keane and Stephen Carr but are protecting a record of just two defeats in 24 fixtures under Kerr. Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was asked for a prediction. "A draw," he said. He's likely to be right.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (probable 4-4-2): Given (Newcastle United); Finnan (Liverpool), Cunningham (capt, Birmingham City), O'Brien (Newcastle), O'Shea (Manchester United); Duff (Chelsea), Holland (Charlton Athletic), Kilbane (Everton), Reid (Tottenham); Morrison (Birmingham), Keane (Tottenham).

PORTUGAL (4-2-1-2-1): Ricardo (Sporting Lisbon); Ferreira (Chelsea), Andrade (Deportivo La Coruna), Caneira (Valencia), Rogerio Matias (Vitoria); Petit (Benfica), Tiago (Chelsea); Deco (Barcelona); Ronaldo (Manchester United), Simao (Benfica); Pauleta (Paris St-Germain).

Referee: M Messias (England)

Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor