Damien Duff is determined to make the most of the qualification experience second time around – after helping Ireland to the European Championship finals in Poland and the Ukraine next year.
Duff played with a pain killing injection as Ireland drew 1-1 with Estonia on Tuesday night to go through 5-1 on aggregate.
The Fulham winger scored in the World Cup finals in Japan and South Korea a decade ago but admits the whole experience almost passed him by last time around.
That’s why he is so keen to lap up the Euro 2012 experience between now and next summer.
“I think I am going to enjoy this far more than the World Cup qualification 10 years ago,” said Duff after his 94th international cap.
“When we qualified the last time I was young and you think it is all ahead of you, you think it is going to happen every tournament.
“It sort of passes you by and I think that’s why this one means so much to me. I’ve had my share of injuries and you do start to think about the future so I will relish every minute of this.
“It will keep me going for some time now. I’ll take the anti-inflammatories, try to steer free of injury and look forward to Poland and the Ukraine next year.
“It’s not going to be easy. There are fewer teams in the Euros and it will be tough but the great thing is that we are there now.”
Injured in Tallinn on Friday night – after a clash with team-mate Glenn Whelan – Duff was never going to miss Tuesday night’s confirmation of Ireland’s qualification.
“They were going to have to carry me out of that one, I was determined to play even though I was sore and taking injections in the build-up to the match,” added the 32-year-old.
“It means that much to me and I know it means that much to the fans and to the whole country. Times are tough as we all know and if we can give everyone a lift it will be great.
“It’s also important for football that we qualify. Everything about Lansdowne Road is to do with rugby. I love my rugby but we needed that win for football, we needed to qualify.”
As thrilled as he was personally, Duff was delighted for manager Giovanni Trapattoni.
“He’s like me getting on a bit and I hope he sees that as his biggest achievement yet,” said Duffer.
“When you look at what he has done and what he has achieved in his career he is a legend so it is great for him that he has done this with us as well.”
As for that anthem turnaround - he faced the old South Stand as the rest of the team looked East- Duffer knows it will haunt him.
“I won’t be let live that down for years,” he laughed. “That’s the end where the flag used to be so maybe I got a bit of a flashback and thought I was younger than I am.
“But I was full of energy for the game and I was rearing to go.”
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