Shane Duffy almost died when he was 18. A freak training ground injury suffered with the Republic of Ireland squad caused horrific internal damage.
‘I was gone at one stage,’ Duffy recalled. ‘My liver, my heart, everything stopped. The doctors in Dublin saved me.’
So everything the 29-year-old Brighton defender has experienced since probably needs to be viewed with that perspective.
In recent times, though, that has been hard. Duffy has been on the floor again.
Shane Duffy built himself back after a nightmare loan at Celtic to play a key role for Brighton
Devastated last year by the sudden death of his father at the age of 53, Duffy then spent a miserable and lonely loan season at Celtic. What should have been the living of a childhood dream transpired to be the worst year of his career.
Marooned from his wife and two children during various stages of lockdown, Duffy’s form fell off a cliff. By the time he drove the seven hours back to Brighton last May, he had absolutely no clue what his future held.
‘It was definitely the lowest I have been,’ said Duffy. ‘It was hard enough dealing with what had happened to my dad but I also didn’t get to see my kids for a year because I couldn’t fly to Ireland to where they were. It was a lonely time and maybe it did affect me on the pitch.
‘Things weren’t going well for the team or me at Celtic so I was probably sitting there on my own doing a bit of over-thinking and that was difficult.
Duffy couldn’t see his children due to the lockdown and had a miserable season at Celtic
Now the defender is in the Brighton team under Graham Potter consistently in the top-flight
‘I try to take a lot from what happened. I think my biggest regret is that it didn’t go well as it meant so much for me to go there. I will probably always live with that. But I have come out the other end.
‘If I hadn’t got that low maybe I wouldn’t have bounced back like I have. It was a difficult year and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But I am not going to sit and cry about it. I had to deal with it and I tried to do that as best as 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-playing centre half and it was assumed he would not be a fit for Potter’s more expansive style of play.
But this season has seen the tall, physical defender re-emerge as a regular for the club he first joined in 2016.
Recently, he was made captain for the 1-1 draw at Southampton. After a game like that, the first call would usually have been to his father Brian.
‘That is still very hard,’ Duffy revealed. ‘The moment I want to ring someone after a game it’s him. I always used to do it. But I can’t any more. So my mum is trying to fill that role now. God bless her, she tries her best.
Duffy captained Brighton against Southampton and is playing happier now on the pitch
‘But I am just trying to get over it and keep going hard. I have a job to do.
‘I am enjoying my football and loving being at Brighton. I am trying to play with a smile on my face again and the manager has been brilliant.’
Potter is not short on emotional intelligence. He has a masters degree in the subject. The 46-year-old also lost his own father last season.
‘Yeah, he cares deeply,’ added Duffy. ‘Not just about me but every player and staff member.
‘That’s the quality of the man and his door is always open to me when I need a talk with him or anything along those lines. And he knows. He knows when I may need a little pull here or there. He is great for me.
‘Brighton could easily have shipped me out 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 was why I got a second chance but I knew, if I did get one, there was no way I was ever going to throw it away.
‘I think I definitely have changed as a person and a character. And, at a club like this, they care about the football and they care about people.
Brighton were understanding about Duffy’s Celtic struggles and gave him an opportunity
‘We are all human, aren’t we? I am really grateful for Graham and the club and I always say to the manager that if you need me I am always here for you. That’s the sort of relationship that we have.’
Brighton’s season has been progressive but also frustrating. Potter’s style has earned him many admirers but results have slipped a little.
Too many draws and not enough goals mean Brighton haven’t won in the Premier League since the middle of September.
Recently, after a home draw against Leeds, Potter’s team were even booed off.
The manager was not happy but Duffy reflected: ‘Our fans are great. They back us every single 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 have set — we have to be winning every game. We know we have great support here and I would never criticise them.’
Brighton are struggling for wins and fell to a 1-0 defeat against Wolves last time out
Brighton continue to feel like a club and a team moving in the right direction. And Duffy is merely happy to be still be part of the journey.
The lacerated liver he suffered while he was on duty with the Republic of Ireland all those years ago lost him six pints of blood and almost claimed his life.
It is not something he reflects upon often but occasionally will pull him up short. He knows how the outcome could have been so different.
‘I got through that and, if I can get through that, I can get through anything,’ he smiled.
‘I am really grateful to still be here and playing. I feel like I’m back to what I can be now. Stronger than ever.’