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duff at the top 'League of Ireland facilities horrific when you compare it to GAA' - new Shels boss Damien Duff

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Newly-appointed Shelbourne manager Damien Duff is pictured at the Clayton Hotel Dublin Airport in Clonshaugh, Dublin. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Newly-appointed Shelbourne manager Damien Duff is pictured at the Clayton Hotel Dublin Airport in Clonshaugh, Dublin. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Newly-appointed Shelbourne manager Damien Duff is pictured at the Clayton Hotel Dublin Airport in Clonshaugh, Dublin. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

New Shelbourne boss Damien Duff says it’s time to start a serious debate about substandard training facilities for players in Ireland, stating that the GAA ‘wipe the floor’ with his beloved sport in this department.

Duff has signed a two-year deal to begin his senior managerial career at home, admitting that a lot of soul searching was needed before committing to stepping up from the U-17 job, a role he was filling on a voluntary basis.

His appointment has captured the imagination, but the former Ireland international used his unveiling to highlight his frustrations at the differences he is seeing on the ground with his two kids getting into Gaelic Games over the summer.

“Forget about Shelbourne and me, this is the most important thing that I’ve said today. The League of Ireland facilities across the board, Premier and First Division, are horrific when you compare it to Gaelic,” said Duff.

“It breaks my heart and startles me. I remember getting criticised for calling them dinosaurs over the Liam Miller testimonial. That was just to prod them. I’d never take it back because I think it went a long way to getting the game moved to Páirc Uí Chaoimh. I knew what I was doing, to get a reaction.

“But what a job they’ve done. It’s ridiculous what Gaelic have and then I look at the football. Everybody talks about Roadstone (Shamrock Rovers base) but Gaelic wipes the floor with Roadstone.

“That’s what we have to give the kids. I don’t know who’s to pay for it, because I’m not educated enough on it. But there are no training grounds. Who is responsible and where has it gone wrong?

“I pass Ballyboden because I was born and grew up there. Even the entrance, ‘wow’, I don’t need to go inside.

“The Wicklow Centre of Excellence, Bray Emmets around the corner from me, Kilmacanogue, where I am. The environment they build is beautiful. I’m sending pictures to Stephen Mulhern from the Shelbourne board every Sunday, saying ‘look at this, it’s a joke’. It’s night and day.”

“I’m thinking about the whole country. That’s the future of Irish football and it’s poor, so poor,” continued the 42-year-old, who admitted the situation was more serious now with Brexit changes meaning youngsters cannot leave for English clubs until they turn 18.

“I know what it’s like, sometimes fighting for a quarter of a pitch to train. You can’t put on a meeting for the kids, because there’s no meeting room. There’s nothing here.

“Everybody raves about Roadstone, but compare there to any Gaelic place and it’s bottom of the pile.

“Shelbourne have plans for the AUL (training base) but, listen, I’ve told the gang here that I was at the AUL for Irish trials nearly 30 years ago.

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“It hasn’t changed one bit. The toilets I’m going into and chairs I’m sitting on are exactly the same. How has that not improved?

“Am I biting my tongue? No, but I know what’s ahead of me with Shels. They’ve got plans to invest in the AUL and improve it to have a separate entrance. I trust all of that, but I’m just talking here as a passionate Irishman who cares about football in this country.

“We’re light years behind everywhere. This isn’t me having a pop at the FAI. It’s factual. Go see every country, the training grounds, what players are given, so it’s gone wrong somewhere along the line.”

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