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Monday 22 September 2014

Comment: Richard Dunne's legacy is much more than his lion-hearted performance in Moscow

Published 31/07/2014 | 23:22

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6 September 2011; Richard Dunne, Republic of Ireland, is attended to by team physio Ciaran Murray during the game. EURO 2012 Championship Qualifier, Russia v Republic of Ireland, Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
6 September 2011; Richard Dunne, Republic of Ireland, is attended to by team physio Ciaran Murray during the game. EURO 2012 Championship Qualifier, Russia v Republic of Ireland, Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

You will hear a lot of talk about Moscow over the next few days.

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September 6, 2011, a vital point that would ultimately ensure Ireland were seeded in the play-offs for Euro 2012, one man’s battle with a running track and possibly the greatest performance by any player in a green shirt.

The legendary Paul McGrath ranked Richard Dunne’s heroics against the Russians that day above his own super- human effort against Italy in the Giants Stadium on that famous day in 1994, which to many, was the greatest-ever performance by any Irishman.

But to focus solely on that one 90 minutes would do a disservice to Richard Dunne.

Heroic, rock, mountain, leader, monster, legend are other words you will hear over the next few days. And rightly so.

Dunne has represented his country with sheer pride and undying loyalty with a string of consistent performances since he first donned the green jersey in a 1-0 loss to Greece in 2000.

Shortly after that debut, Dunne found himself in the starting 11 for a vital World Cup qualifier against Holland in the Amsterdaam Arena.

Ten thousand Ireland fans witnessed a scintillating performance by the Boys in Green, for 70 minutes anyway, with a 21-year-old Richard Dunne immense at the back.

We knew then that we had a very special player.

Dunne didn’t put a foot wrong in the qualifiers for the 2002 World Cup, playing in seven of the 10 matches, but Mick McCarthy chose to go with experience for the finals in Japan and South Korea with Gary Breen and Steve Staunton getting the nod at centre half.

Dunne would not kick a ball in that World Cup.  It would be 10 long years until he got to represent his country at a major finals.

He will be 35 this September and probably feels he doesn’t have the legs to sustain his high standards for a full qualifying campaign.

For all his heroics for Ireland, he is probably right. Let’s not allow romanticism or loyalty cloud our judgement here.

When he went down in agony for Aston Villa against Manchester City with a dislocated shoulder in February 2012, we knew he would be in a race against time to be fit for the Euros. Arguably, it’s one he didn’t win.

He was the Minister of Defence and constructed his own Iron Curtain in Russia, bossed many international superstars and would run through a wall for Ireland.

But at 32, a dislocated shoulder for a centre half who doesn’t hold back, was too much and Dunne went into the Euros way off 100 per cent fitness.

He made his competitive return for Ireland in the 2-1 defeat against Sweden and hasn’t had a consistent run at international level since.

While he still has so much to offer, bottom line is Dunne will be nearly 37 when the European Championships kick off in France. Would he benefit the Ireland squad for another campaign? Absolutely! And certainly for the four vital qualifiers this year.

Dunne would not only be the natural leader and rock he always has been. He would be a huge benefit to the squad on and off the pitch but playing regular football with QPR in the Premier League will no doubt take its toll on those ageing, battle-hardened legs.

Time with the family and loved ones probably looks more attractive for Dunne now.

He owes us nothing.

Time for others to try and fill those very big boots. Dunne’s international boots now hang beside those of Damien Duff and Shay Given. Three players who have given us 305 international appearances. 

As a new era under Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane begins, a glorious one ends. Dunne will go down as one of Ireland’s great players. While falling just short of the elite bracket occupied by the likes of Roy Keane, McGrath, Brady and Giles, it will be a long time until we see his likes again.

Farewell to a legend.

Ger Keville is online Sports Editor of Independent.ie and a founding member of international supporters website YouBoysInGreen.ie.

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