The drinking culture in the Irish football team is well-known at this stage. The players would frequently go on the lash together before and after games during the Jack Charlton era, with major tournaments no exception.
That didn't end with Mick McCarthy's appointment as manager. Ireland players certainly weren't stopped from enjoying a drink or two during the 2002 World Cup, as they themselves will tell you.
While Damien Duff considered himself to be professional in his approach to the game, he was not exempt from those indulgences.
Appearing on the Open Goal Podcast, he recalled how he and a huge number of the squad snuck out of the team hotel to go on the last in the buildup to their knockout game against Spain. Bizarrely, the night ended somehow with him and Stephen Reid performing in a Japanese comedy club.
🎥⚽️| Damien Duff on a brilliant story from his #Ireland days that includes:
2002 World Cup ✅
A Messy Team Night Out ✅
He and Steven Reid Doing Stand-Up at a Japanese Comedy Club at 3am ✅ 🤣🤣
Full Interview w/ Damien Duff MONDAY @ 5PM pic.twitter.com/rreb0l1RdP
— Open Goal (@opengoalsport) July 10, 2020
I hate myself now for doing it, because I was a top pro. I'd like to think I was a top pro, but I did get lamped a few times during that World Cup.
I remember Germany after the last minute equaliser from Robbie [Keane], we drank until four o'clock in the morning. Would I do that now? No.
I remember we snuck out. Mick brought us down to the bar, Spain were playing their last group game and you could have a beer and watch the game.
12 of us, we called ourselves 'the dirty dozen' in the end, we watched the game and were to get right up to bed. Needless to say 12 of us snuck out to an Irish bar, stayed there until two or three in the morning.
I think everyone went back home. Footballers with money would usually go to a strip club or a nightclub, but me and Stephen Reid decided to go to a stand-up comedy club where you could put your name down and do a sketch on stage.
I'm so glad that back then there were no camera phones. I remember putting my name down, I was lamped. I went up and did my sketch on stage, then Reidy goes up and does his sketch. Thank god there's no footage of this stuff.
You certainly wouldn't get away with it these days.
Duff is now part of Stephen Kenny's coaching staff with Ireland, and you imagine he would be fairly annoyed if the current squad attempted to pull off something like this.
Still, we would pay good money to see footage of those sketches...