‘Lockdown was hell’: Shane Duffy returns to Brighton with a smile after Celtic nightmare

Shane Duffy almost died at the age of 18. An abnormal injury on the training ground with the Republic of Ireland squad caused horrific internal damage.

“I was gone at one point,” Duffy recalls. “My liver, my heart, everything stopped. The Dublin doctors saved me.

So everything the 29-year-old Brighton defender has been through since probably needs to be seen in that perspective.

Lately, however, it has been difficult. Duffy was on the floor again.

Shane Duffy has rebuilt himself after nightmarish loan spell at Celtic to play key role for Brighton

Devastated last year by the sudden death of his father at the age of 53, Duffy went on to spend a miserable and lonely loan season at Celtic. What should have been the life of a childhood dream turned out to be the worst year of his career.

Left to his wife and two children during various stages of the lockdown, Duffy’s form fell off a cliff. By the time he drove the seven-hour ride back to Brighton last May, he had absolutely no idea what his future held for him.

“It was definitely the lowest I’ve been,” Duffy said. “It was hard enough to cope with what had happened to my father, but I also couldn’t see my children for a year because I couldn’t fly to Ireland where they were. were. It was a lonely time and maybe it affected me on the pitch.

“Things weren’t going well for the team or for me at Celtic so I was probably just sitting there alone thinking a bit and it was difficult.

Duffy couldn't see his kids due to lockdown and had a miserable season at Celtic

Duffy couldn’t see his kids due to lockdown and had a miserable season at Celtic

Now the defender is in the Brighton squad under Graham Potter consistently in the top flight

Now the defender is in the Brighton squad under Graham Potter consistently in the top flight

“I’m trying to get a lot out of what happened. I think my biggest regret is that it didn’t go well as it meant so much to me to go. I’ll probably always live with it. But I got out on the other side.

“If I hadn’t been that low, maybe I wouldn’t have bounced like I did. It has been a difficult year and I don’t wish it on anyone. But I’m not going to sit and cry about it. I had to deal with it and tried to do it the best I could.

Duffy was loaned to Celtic after failing to play regularly under Brighton manager Graham Potter. By his own admission, Duffy is not a ball game center-half and it was speculated that he would not suit Potter’s larger playstyle.

But this season has seen the great physical defender reappear as a regular at the club he first joined in 2016.

Recently he was named captain for the 1-1 draw at Southampton. After a game like this, the first call would usually have been to his dad Brian.

“It’s always very difficult,” Duffy revealed. “When I want to call someone after a game, that’s him. I always used to do this. But I can’t anymore. So my mother is trying to fill that role now. God bless her, she’s doing her best.

Duffy was Brighton captain against Southampton and is now playing happier on the pitch

Duffy was Brighton captain against Southampton and is now playing happier on the pitch

“But I’m just trying to get over it and keep going hard. I have a job to do.

“I enjoy my football and I love being at Brighton. I try to play again with a smile on my face and the manager has been brilliant. ‘

Potter is not lacking in emotional intelligence. He has a master’s degree in the matter. The 46-year-old also lost his own father last season.

“Yes, he cares deeply about that,” added Duffy. “Not just for me, but for every player and staff.

“That’s the quality of a man and his door is always open to me when I need to talk to him or whatever.” And he knows. He knows when I’ll need a little help here and there. He is great for me.

“Brighton could have easily dispatched me as soon as I got back from Celtic, but they understood what I was going through and they understood me as a person.

“Maybe that’s why I got a second chance, but I knew if I got one, there was no way I would ever throw it away.

“I think I’ve definitely changed as a person and a character. And, at a club like this, they care about football and they care about people.

Brighton understood Duffy's Celtic struggles and gave him an opportunity

Brighton understood Duffy’s Celtic struggles and gave him an opportunity

“We’re all human, aren’t we? I’m really grateful to Graham and the club and always tell the manager if you need me I’m always here for you. It’s the kind of relationship we have.

Brighton’s season has been gradual but also frustrating. Potter’s style has won him many admirers but the results have faded a bit.

Too many draws and not enough goals mean Brighton hasn’t won in the Premier League since mid-September.

Recently, after a draw at home against Leeds, Potter’s side were even booed.

The manager was not happy but Duffy reflected, “Our fans are great. They support us every week. As the manager said, it was a minority and not a majority.

“Everyone is entitled to their opinion and maybe that’s the standard we’ve set – we have to win every game. We know we have great support here and I would never criticize them.

Brighton is fighting for victory and lost 1-0 to Wolves last time around

Brighton is fighting for victory and lost 1-0 to Wolves last time around

Brighton continue to feel like a club and a team moving in the right direction. And Duffy is just happy to be a part of the trip again.

The lacerated liver he suffered while serving with the Republic of Ireland all those years ago caused him to lose six pints of blood and nearly cost him his life.

It’s not something he thinks about often, but it will stop him sometimes. He knows how the outcome could have been so different.

“I got through it and, if I can get through it, I can overcome it all,” he smiled.

“I’m really grateful to still be here and to play. I feel like I’m back to what I can be now. Stronger than ever. ‘


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