Today is Damien Duff's 39th birthday.
His 20-year career saw him win two Premier League titles, two League Cups and earn 100 caps for Ireland. He's one of our greatest ever and most popular players.
To celebrate, here are six of our favourite moments from his outstanding career.
Dazzling At The World Youth Championships in 1997
Irish football had fallen to a low ebb before this tournament. Ireland had failed to qualify for Euro 96 following a chaotic campaign that accelerated Jack Charlton's resignation. The gloom was lifted by Brian Kerr's fabulous under-20 team that went to Malaysia to compete in the World Youth Championships. The team reached the semi finals, beating Morocco and a Spain en route. They eventually lost by a single goal to an Argentina side managed by Jose Pekerman, and featuring players like Pablo Aimar, Walter Samuel and Juan Roman Riquelme.
The star of the Irish team was Duff, who earned a place as a rising star in the official FIFA report of the tournament. Duff scored the winner in extra time against Morocco - making him the first player to score a golden goal in a major tournament - and also scored the winner in the 3rd place play off against Ghana.
Bowing To The Crowd Against Saudi Arabia
Duff also starred at the 2002 World Cup with the senior team, playing every game and was voted Ireland's player of the tournament. (Nearly beating Spain on his own in the second round was probably the real highlight - Ed.) He was also responsible for one of the most iconic images from the tournament. Following a goal that admittedly owe much to the incompetence of Saudi Arabian captain and goalkeeper Mohamed Al-Deayea, Duff celebrated by bowing oriental-style to the crowd.
Despite the fact that only two of the 1997 Youth team went on to play with senior team (Duff and Glen Crowe), the image, followed by Robbie Keane clambering upon Duff's back was symbolic of a new, youthful and exuberant order in Irish football: a wonderful kind of tonic after the nightmare of Saipan.
Being Integral To Jose Mourinho's Best Chelsea Side
Chelsea, in Jose Mourinho's first season at the club, were among the most dominant teams English football has ever seen. A miserly defence and an adamantine midfield were complemented by a thrilling attacking trident of Duff, Arjen Robben and Didier Drogba. It was a side that set records for fewest goals conceded (15) and highest points total (95), and Duff was integral to the relentless enterprise.
Duff was signed in 2003 by Claudio Raneiri for £18 million, and under Mourinho he scored ten goals in 2004-05, including a crucial goal against Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals. Duff ended the season with Premier League and League Cup medals. The following season, he scored thrice in 28 appearances as Chelsea successfully defended their league title.
Celebrating France's World Cup Elimination At The 2010 World Cup
In the aftermath of the Henry Handball and Ireland's elimination against France in the 2010 World Cup play-off, Duff was oddly sanguine towards Henry, instead blaming the referee for missing the incident. "You can't blame him. He's a clever player – but you expect the ref to see it, it was so blatant".
Duff, along with Robbie Keane, did not allow this generosity towards Henry to obscure their feelings upon France's farcical exit from the World Cup eight months later, as the image below highlights:
Donating Shamrock Rovers Salary To Charity
Duff left Melbourne City to return to Ireland and joined Rovers in 2015. Shortly after joining, Duff revealed that he would be donating his entire salary to charity. He told the Sunday Times that:
I don’t want a penny. I thought it would be something nice to do because I just want to play football.
The only thing I’ve taken from Rovers is the loan of a car through Hyundai until I sort my situation out. Otherwise, every penny I get — whether it be bonuses, incentives or whatever, appearance money — is all going to those two charities 50-50.
I’ve done a bit in the past with charities, including Heart Children Ireland because of my son, and it was straightforward enough. I don’t want to make a big story out of it.
The charities are close to my heart. My son’s operation took place in London but the check-ups were done here.
Duff said that he moved home simply to play football. Unfortunately injuries denied him the opportunity to do so, making just nine
appearances for Rovers.
Even in retirement, Duff's zeal for football is still evident
In an interview with Chelsea's website last year, Duff told a story of turning up at a Dublin astropark for a kickabout - on his own.
Last week I felt a bit of a weirdo and booked the local astropark, bored one morning, and had a kickabout on my own. Still trying to improve my right foot, I don’t know what for, I’m retired, but pure love for the game.