Shelbourne captain Luke Byrne had described training under Damien Duff as 'the hardest I've ever trained in my career'.
It's been a positive first season for Shels under Duff, who find themselves in an FAI Cup semifinal against Waterford, with top flight status essentially secured.
Byrne - who was speaking at the Aviva Stadium on Wednesdays ahead of the release of FIFA 23 next Friday - spoke of how the levels of intensity during training under the management of Duff have offered a springboard for Shelbourne's great run in the cup, following an emphatic 3-0 win over local rivals Bohemians on Sunday at Tolka Park.
Intensity under Damien Duff
Byrne was asked to discuss what it has been like to work under Damien Duff in his first season managing the club. Duff has often spoken about raising intensity levels throughout the club and has highlighted its importance in order to stay in the Premier Division. Byrne highlights their fitness as a key component of their success.
It's very intense, it is. It's very demanding, there's high standards set. There's a lot of detail, you have to take on a lot of detail tactically, individually and as a team. Every week we analyse the opposition, prepare for them, again with more detail. We train very hard, it's the hardest I've ever trained in my career in terms of when you're on the pitch, it's not necessarily the length of the session, but just the intensity of it, the repetitions when you're on the pitch. I'm kind of used to it now, it was a bit of a shock in pre-season, a few lads were thinking 'jeez, I've never seen this before, is it going to be like this all year?'. At that point you think 'I don't know if I can keep this up, but then your body becomes accustomed to it, you just adapt to it and it becomes normal and I think it's been one of our strengths this year, how fit we are.
When asked about recent success in the FAI Cup, Byrne again highlights the intensity of the manager. Given safety is guaranteed for the promoted side, Byrne was asked if this will now allow Shelbourne to prioritise cup success and a chance of European football over their remaining league fixtures. In response, Byrne says:
Yeah I mean we kind of put the same amount of pressure on ourselves for every game, genuinely, whether it's a league game with what might seem to others as not much at stake, or the cup quarter final. That's the way the manager treats every game, it's how he wants us to apply ourselves every week. You've got no choice but to abide by that and live by that, it's the environment the manager is trying to create here at Shelbourne.
When discussing Sunday's 3-0 win over Bohemians, Byrne comments on the focus required working under Duff, saying:
Sunday was obviously the biggest game of the season, but we didn't take our eyes off the league with the quarter final coming up, the manager wouldn't allow you to do that.
Securing safety vital for stability
When asked about the importance of ensuring Premier Division football for next season, Byrne highlights the benefits of stability on the players, the coaching staff and the manager. He comments specifically on continuity and the movement of players from the club over the past year:
The club needs stability, you don't want a high turnover of players every year. Obviously this year there was quite a high turnover of players, which is what sometimes happens with a new manager, particularly in the League of Ireland with the short term contracts. You see a lot of clubs around the league now putting players on longer contracts and thankfully that's a model Shels have started to follow. A lot of our young most talented players are signed up for next year. About 50-60% of the squad is signed up, I'm not too sure. I think it is important that the great work that the manager and staff have done with the players this year is allowed to progress and the same players are kept for a couple of years.
It is clear from this interview that the Shelbourne squad have enjoyed an intense first year under the management of Damien Duff. Byrne is confident in the team's ability to perform well in their remaining fixtures, detailing the standards set in training by the manager. He looks forward to adding to the platform the club has established over the past year in the hope of more successes going forward.