Former Celtic coach making big impression in first managerial role

By David Walton

May 24, 2022

Former Celtic first-team coach Damien Duff has made a strong impression on assistant coach Joey O’Brien with his first managerial role seeing a positive upturn in recent weeks.

Duff has managed to bring Shelbourne up to 6th in the League of Ireland Premier Division. This comes with the team managing to pick up their 4th consecutive win against UCD last night.

Shelbourne are back in the top flight of Irish football after earning promotion last season. However, it took them a while to adjust with just 1 win in their opening 7 games.

Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

But Duff has managed to turn things around in recent weeks, so much so that they now sit just 7 points off of a European place. O’Brien has been left wowed by the mentality he’s implemented at Shelbourne, and certainly sounded buzzing to be working with him before last night’s game against UCD.

As quoted by the Independent, Duff’s assistant said: “Listen, he’s outstanding. The sessions as a coach, his work ethic, it’s an obsession and that’s why I left (Shamrock Rovers) really. I stopped playing because I wanted to be a part of that, I wanted to learn in the environment and I wanted to improve myself as a coach.

“He’s as good as anything I’ve worked with. Without a doubt, he’s first class. To be honest, I didn’t know the manager before. I would have played against him and been involved in a few Ireland squads around him, but not had any real deep footballing conversations. Even when he was up at Rovers at the time, I wouldn’t have been really really close with him, so, obviously getting to know someone and working with them, you throw yourself into it

“As I said, his work ethic makes you work harder. I think that’s what it is. It’s reflected in the lads as well. They see how hard he works and the players want to do that as well.”

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Damien Duff making a strong impression with Shelbourne after Celtic career

Duff has already stated that he has big ambitions with Shelbourne but that his first job is to simply keep them in the league [Irish Times]. The Irishman was highly rated by first Brendan Rodgers and then Neil Lennon, with the latter making him a first-team coach during a successful period for the club.

Duff would leave Celtic Park in June 2020 to join the Republic of Ireland coaching staff. It would’ve been interesting to see what his presence would’ve done to help the team in our 10-in-a-row season. We’ll never know.

But his debut campaign appears to be going well in his attempts to rebuild the club. Shelbourne have suffered both relegation and promotion more than once in recent years. It’ll be a tough gig for Duff to try and stabilise the club, but the recent results suggest things are beginning to go to plan.

Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Some eyes may have been raised regarding Duff’s decision to take the League of Ireland gig. Given how low a level it actually is, it’s going to be a long road to the top for the former Chelsea and Fulham attacker. But the early signs are positive.

Duff left Celtic having struck up a big relationship with the supporters. In the past, he’s spoken about how his time at Parkhead was the “best year-and-a-half in my sporting life” [Celtic Website].

He’ll no doubt be eyeing up a return to Parkhead one day as a number one if his career is successful enough. But in the meantime, credit to him for taking Shelbourne up the Premier Division as he looks to build something special at Tolka Park.

In other news, “Touch of class”; James McPake details fascinating chats with Celtic boss