Dunne reveals he feared for his career as he targets Faroes clash after 'special' comeback
Richard Dunne admitted that he feared his career might have been over after he celebrated a belated return to action following a nightmare season of injury which will culminate in his exit from Aston Villa.
He may be without a club but the 33-year-old Tallaght man is no longer without a hope and, as the clouds dissipated to provide a ray of sunshine to accompany his second-half introduction, he was just delighted to be involved at the highest level once more.
"There were a few moments, yeah," he said when asked did he fear the worst after a season pockmarked with three operations and a series of setbacks in his recovery.
"Different things go through your mind. I'm just thankful the physios I worked with were very good and we just stuck to the plan and in the end we got it right.
"I just had so many setbacks. I was able to run but that's all I've been doing. I couldn't kick a ball. So to get out today, it was great.
"It means a lot to me to come back, for the fans to cheer like they did was really special. It was nice after a year out to get a welcome like that.
"It was probably the perfect game to come back, with them down to 10 men. It was nice to be back involved. I felt grand, it was just nice to be back in situations. Hopefully it's the end of a bad season."
At a push, Dunne could be available to play on Friday after Sean St Ledger's uncertain performance against the English last Wednesday but, understandably, he is remaining cautious.
"We haven't spoken about it," he revealed of his brief post-match discussion with manager Giovanni Trapattoni following the rout of the hapless Georgians.
"There's ongoing rehab that I have to do. I'll have a chat with the doctor tomorrow and take it from there.
"The week's training has been as hard as the game was, so it was important for myself to just clear my mind of what's gone on in the last year.
"It would be brilliant. It's been so long, I don't know. I might be stiff and sore in the morning, but I'm delighted to just be back. To get more games would be brilliant."
Another player hopeful that a different kind of audition might also endear himself to the manager was Norwich City midfielder Wes Hoolahan, who managed to embellish a moribund occasion with the only real touches of elegance and class.
Midfield schemer Hoolahan is optimistic that his series of slide-rule deliveries and clever positioning may just have provided enough encouragement for Trapattoni to entrust him with a competitive debut next Friday.
"Hopefully," he replied with conviction. "You just want to keep doing well and hopefully I'll do well in training this week. If I'm called upon I'll do a good job.
"It was nice to get on the ball. It helped that they went down to 10 men as well, so we had a lot of time on the ball and we created a lot of chances.
"In the second half especially we looked quite strong going forward."
Robbie Keane, who extended what captain Shane Long described as a "ridiculous" international scoring record to 56 goals in his record-equalling 125th cap, hailed the performance as an accurate reflection of the test that will be provided by the Faroese.
"We had to move it quickly and work the gaps which we did, create chances and score goals and that was the case tonight.
"If we can repeat that, it will be great."