THE STARRING ROLES of Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy in Everton’s promising start to life under Roberto Martinez have been a real success story from an Irish point of view this season.
While Coleman is being lauded as the best full-back in the Premier League, McCarthy has slotted in seamlessly since arriving from Wigan with considerable expectation for a fee of €15m in the summer.
Add to that the injured Darron Gibson and January signing Aiden McGeady and it is no wonder that Irish assistant manager Roy Keane has visited Goodison Park in recent weeks.
The fifth Irish player (and also the longest-serving) on Everton’s books is currently plying his trade away from Goodison Park. Having originally joined Yeovil Town on a three-month loan deal, Derry-born defender Shane Duffy recently agreed to remain at the Championship newcomers until the end of the season having hugely impressed manager Gary Johnson.
The centre-half initially broke into Everton’s first team in 2012 but found opportunities limited under David Moyes — appearing eight times in 18 months.
Now 22, the talented defender finds himself in a relegation dogfight with the Glovers, who sit second from bottom in England’s second tier.
“I’m really enjoying it here,” he told TheScore.ie this week ahead of a trip to Birmingham for this afternoon’s game. “I’m getting experience and game time so it has been good so far.
I hadn’t been playing at Everton so to come here and play every week is quite different. It was an easy decision to extend the deal because I enjoyed my first three months so I’ve decided to see how it goes.
“I haven’t been in this situation before but am glad of the experience.”
Duffy facing Burnley for Yeovil. Credit: Simon Galloway/EMPICS Sport
Martinez has expressed his satisfaction with Duffy’s progression at Huish Park but while Duffy hasn’t totally given up hope of succeeding at Everton, he remains realistic about the possibility of having to carve out a career elsewhere.
“I don’t know because you can’t say what’s going to happen,” he explains. “At the minute I’m just taking it game on game and see how it goes. I’m not really focusing on Everton at the minute.
“I’ll go back in pre-season and see what the manager wants. If he wants me I’ll stay but if not I’ll just move on.”
On the Toffees Irish contingent, he adds: “They’re all good players and it’s not like they’re just signing anyone. It’s good to see and hopefully they can do well for club and country.
He (Martinez) has been good for the club as you can see with the results. He has changed the style of play a bit and the players have adapted to it well.”
With Messrs O’Neill and Keane attending several Championship games since taking the job in November, it isn’t inconceivable that either will soon get a first-hand look at Duffy, who was captain of Ireland’s U21s last year.
But does he believe he can force his way into the squad for the Serbia friendly in March ahead of this year’s Euro 2016 qualifiers?
“I’m playing at the bottom of the Championship so it’s difficult,” admits Duffy. “But I’m playing games and if I am involved it’ll be a bonus but I’m not really focusing on that.
“At centre-half, the likes of Richard Dunne and John O’Shea are that bit older now so it’s a chance for the young players who have been back-up.”