Duffy's dilemma: stay with team or go with flow

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The Independent Online

When Gavin Duffy left his native Ireland to join Harlequins two seasons ago he never imagined he would be contemplating a future in National League One. "I had an oppor-tunity to play in the English Premiership and thought it was a good move,'' he said.

When Gavin Duffy left his native Ireland to join Harlequins two seasons ago he never imagined he would be contemplating a future in National League One. "I had an oppor-tunity to play in the English Premiership and thought it was a good move,'' he said.

The arrival of Duffy, Andy Dunne and Simon Keogh, who all gained representative honours for Ireland, was designed to transform the Quins back-line. "It's been an interesting experience,'' Duffy, who lives in Twickenham, close to the Stoop, said. "But now everything's up in the air. We've got tough decisions to make. Do we stay or do we go? I've already had a couple of offers.'' Munster and Leinster would like him to return to the Emerald Isle.

Duffy, a tall, pacey attacking full-back, won his first cap for Ireland on the tour to South Africa last June and gained his second in this season's Six Nations' Championship as a replacement against Scotland at Murrayfield, where he scored a try. He scored a cracker against Sale in the Premiership dénouement last weekend, but he and his club were ultimately beaten by Mark Cueto's solo try, after which Duffy left the field suffering from cramp.

Quins had a chance for survival with a penalty in the closing minutes, but Jeremy Staunton missed by inches. It was described by Mark Evans, the club's chief executive, as the most expensive miss in British rugby and Staunton, another recruit from Ireland, was said to be "in bits''.

"We consoled him,'' Duffy said, "but Jeremy knows that this was a group thing. The whole squad are responsible for what's happened, not one player. It wasn't a missed kick that cost us. It was the fact that we only won six games out of 22 and our closest rivals won eight. We weren't good enough, although people were saying that 37 points would keep us up. I still don't believe we were the worst team, but the bottom line is you can't argue with the league table.''

While most of the players drowned their sorrows last weekend Duffy entertained his parents, who were visiting from Co Mayo. "We tried to avoid the subject of relegation. We had a quiet evening.''

The 23-year-old Duffy, who studied commerce at Galway University before playing for Connacht, is hoping to be selected next week for Ireland's summer tour of Japan. In the interim he has some serious thinking to do about where he will be playing next season. If Andrew Mehrtens arrives from New Zealand Staunton, more a full-back than a stand-off, will almost certainly be leaving the Stoop, even though he has another year on his contract. Because of an administrative cock-up Duffy, who signed for two years, is now out of contract. He was keen to re-sign before Quins were relegated, but the paperwork wasn't completed.

"Mehrtens is world class, and if he's coming on board and Dean Richards takes over the coaching and most of the players stay together, then that would influence my decision,'' Duffy said. "The club have been very positive. They want to regroup and keep the squad as strong as possible, and financially Quins seem to be in a decent position. We're trying to get as much information as possible. We're not being rushed into a decision, but we have to think about what is best for ourselves as well as collectively.''

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