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  • Damien Duff: My time at Celtic was the best of my sporting life

    Damien Duff: My time at Celtic was the best of my sporting life

    By: Joe Donnelly on 13 Jun, 2020 14:31

  • DURING a playing career that spanned three decades, Damien Duff captained his country, won two English Premier League titles and played in two European finals.

    Despite these great achievements, the Irishman considers the last 16 months working under Neil Lennon as Celtic’s first team coach to be the best of his sporting life.

    The 41-year-old departs Paradise for family reasons, and will now concentrate on his new role as assistant manager to Stephen Kenny with the Ireland national team.

    “The role I had at Celtic was my dream job,” said Duff in an exclusive interview with the official Celtic website. “I’m absolutely gutted, devastated to be leaving, especially at this time, when we’re going for 10.

    "It was absolutely a family decision. There is no job in the world that would have taken me away from the role I was in. I’d love to be a brilliant coach one day, but I think it’s more important at the minute that I’m just a brilliant dad, I guess.

    “For the first while I was away, my kids were like, ‘Daddy, Daddy, stay for nine and 10’, but as time went by, it was more, ‘Daddy, Daddy, when are you coming home?’ Celtic is one big family, but my family is here as well.

    "It was the best year-and-a-half of my sporting life, and I include my football career in that. It was an absolute dream with amazing people. I’m gutted, but my kids need me, which is always the most important thing to any dad.”

    Having joined Celtic as assistant manager of the reserves side in January 2019, Duff graduated to the first team six weeks later after the unexpected departure of Brendan Rodgers and his backroom staff.

    He, in turn, worked with Neil Lennon and John Kennedy, helping the Hoops win the Treble Treble of 2019, the League Cup of 2020 and the club’s ninth consecutive league title this season in the process.

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    He added: “I’d never really planned out a coaching career. When you retire it can be quite a scary time, so I thought I’d try my hand at my coaching badges, and from there everything happened a lot quicker than I would have thought. In the space of three to four months, I went from coaching 15-year-olds at Shamrock Rovers to being on the sidelines at Tyencastle.

    “Like anything in life, I guess I got there because of hard work, 24/7, I was the same as a player. It was amazing, and listen, I’ll be watching every game here from home. Like most Irish people, I was always a Celtic fan before all of this, and now having been in there, loving the guys so much, I’ll be keeping tabs from afar every game on the TV.

    It was great to get a few trophies along the way, in such a short time, and it was an absolute rollercoaster. Working with top people, it was great and amazing learning experience.

    "Like I said when I came in, the only club that would have taken me away from home was Celtic, but then with my family based in Ireland, the only thing that would have taken me away from Celtic was my family.

    “It was one big rollercoaster and me leaving was one big catch 22, but it was an amazing 18 months working with great staff. The gaffer in the best in Scotland. John Kennedy is the best assistant manager around – I’ve worked with many coaches in my life, but John is one of the best coaches in the world, without a doubt. It’s been amazing learning off him, and Stevie Woods as well, he’s well-respected all around the world and a world-class coach.

    “Align that with the players. The players are the best group in the country, amazing characters, amazing talent. The likes of Brown, McGregor, working with them day-in, day-out, that was a dream. It’s all in a good place, and I’ll definitely be back as a fan, hopefully to celebrate, at the end of this season if not before.” 

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