The secret is out. Until Wednesday evening, the Republic of Ireland had hoped that in Damien Duff, of Blackburn Rovers, they would have one of the surprise packages of this summer's World Cup finals, capable of catching opponents off guard with his pace and dribbling skills. But in an embarrassingly easy 3-0 victory over Denmark at Lansdowne Road the package was unwrapped, dazzling the spies from Cameroon, Germany and Saudi Arabia – Ireland's rivals in Group E – as much as poor Thomas Rytter, the Danish defender with two previous caps who had been hoping to earn himself a trip to South Korea in June.
"I'd been asked before who might cause a surprise at the World Cup and I said Damien Duff, but he won't now because teams will be watching him,'' said the Republic's manager, Mick McCarthy. "Denmark paid particular attention to him, but there was not a lot they could do about it. We said in training that our wide players might be able to get one-on-ones against their full-backs and Duffer had a field day. The full-back must be having nightmares tonight.''
Rytter was not the only Dane to suffer. One-on-one or one-on-three, it did not matter to Duff, who wriggled inside and outside, twisting and turning, before laying on crosses like the one that landed on Ian Harte's head for the first goal. All this on a soft and bobbly surface that could hardly have made close control any trickier.
There is, however, one element of surprise still open to McCarthy, namely whether Duff plays out wide on the left as he did on Wednesday, or through the middle. In the previous friendly, a 2-0 victory against Russia last month, he partnered Robbie Keane as a central striker in a pairing that the manager suggested was his favoured choice for the summer.
Duff's brilliance on the wing and a convincing first full international appearance by the Crystal Palace striker Clinton Morrison have now offered another of the options that these occasions are designed to throw up. "They played well together,'' McCarthy said of Morrison and Keane, "and that's given me something to think about.'' Each also scored a goal, Keane's thunderous 30-yarder confirming that his recent inactivity at Leeds had not had a harmful effect, and reaffirming McCarthy's faith in him.
Morrison deserved his late goal after being thwarted several times by the two goalkeepers who prevented the feeble Danes suffering an even more demoralising defeat. The Palace man, a popular, ebullient figure in the dressing-room, has almost certainly moved ahead of another Selhurst Park resident, Wimbledon's David Connolly, in the pecking order. In other areas of the team, there was confirmation that Charlton's Dean Kiely and Mark Kinsella will not let anyone down if called upon; that it is a little late to bring Kenny Cunningham and Steve Staunton together in the centre of defence; and that Harte, like his English counterparts, is far better going forward than defending.
The young midfielders Steven Reid and Colin Healy did their prospects no harm in brief appearances as substitutes, but for the Wolves winger Mark Kennedy, Duff's pyrotechnics made it a bad match to miss.Reuse content