Dunne keen to prove his fitness ahead of Euro clash
Richard Dunne will today begin the task of trying to prove his fitness to the Irish medical team ahead of Saturday's Euro 2012 qualifier with Macedonia.
The Aston Villa defender is battling to recover from a shoulder problem that has left him on the sidelines for most of the last month, and Giovanni Trapattoni is desperate to have his defensive lynchpin available, with both Shay Given and John O'Shea sidelined through injury.
Dunne, who attracted negative headlines last week after his row with Villa staff at a team bonding trip, has indicated to the Irish camp that he feels he is progressing well, but will have to prove it in person as the official preparation gets under way in Malahide today.
The 31-year-old will be given every chance by Trapattoni, and is likely to spend the majority of this week undergoing rehabilitation rather than taking part in training sessions with the main group.
Last night, his team-mate Kevin Kilbane admitted that it was absolutely vital to Ireland's chances that Dunne is ready to line out at the Aviva Stadium.
"I'm certainly hoping that he's fit," said Kilbane. "He's been tremendous for us, especially in the last campaign. I'm just hoping that he's available."
Leon Best and Keith Fahey will also have to convince Trap that they have overcome injuries which ruled them out of their club games at the weekend.
James McCarthy arrived in Dublin last night, finally putting to bed nonsensical suggestions that he was contemplating a switch back to Scotland, a theory that was largely driven by confusing messages from Wigan boss Roberto Martinez and comments from Trapattoni last month before he went to meet the 20-year-old.
The talented Glaswegian will attempt to force his way into Trapattoni's thoughts in training this week, yet it is more likely that he will make his competitive debut as a substitute.
"He's going to be a huge player for us," said Kilbane.
Elsewhere, Leon Best and Stephen Ireland last night issued a joint apology for being pictured out on the town the night before Newcastle's 4-0 defeat to Stoke.
The Irish duo were injured for Saturday's game, but manager Alan Pardew was unimpressed by photos circulated on the internet which showed the pair revealing their torsos in a popular nightspot.
"Although we had both been ruled out of the game at Stoke and didn't travel with the team, we realise that going to a bar was inappropriate ahead of Saturday's game and we regret doing so," read a club statement issued on behalf of the pair.
"We were asked to have our photograph taken and removed our shirts as a tongue-in-cheek between friends but, of course, the resulting coverage in the press suggests a far different nightout. Whilst our actions were wrong, neither of us had consumed alcohol and we were only out for a short period of time."