Tuesday 28 February 2017

I'm not chasing something that is missing in my life - Richard Dunne

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Richard Dunne in the TV3 studios last night. Picture: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Richard Dunne in the TV3 studios last night. Picture: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

If you've been worried about where Richard Dunne has disappeared to then relax. There is no need to worry.

Last summer, when QPR withdrew a verbal offer of a new contract, he decided to pack his bags for Monaco, his favoured holiday destination, for an extended break with the wife and kids.

There was no fanfare, no scripted press release, but deep down he knew this was the end.

"The plan was to stay for a couple of months," he explains. "It's just moved on and it's become a permanent thing. I didn't think there was any need for me to announce it to everyone. I just played football and then stopped, then I went off and lived my life."

Last night, he was back on Irish soil to appear as a pundit on TV3's Champions League coverage of his former club Manchester City.

The dabble with media work is about as far as he intends to go in resuming his relationship with the game.

Otherwise, the 36-year-old is content to enjoy the Mediterranean sunshine, spend time with his family and move onto a stress-free phase of his life. He's coping well with a period that is a struggle for so many ex-pros who have never known any other kind of existence.

"I don't have the need to continue playing," he shrugs. "I'm not crying out to go back and be part of it again. It's over. I'm not glad it's over because everyone wishes they could play forever but I've done it and it's finished and now I can just be happy and move on.

"I'm not chasing something that's missing in my life."

He laughs when informed of Damien Duff's attempts to wean himself off the habit which entailed renting out a five-a-side pitch on his own to practise kicking with his right foot.

Every Monday, Dunne joins some lads from Ireland and England he's got to know from his regular visits over the years for a kickabout. "It's about 15 minutes from the house and we have a couple of pints afterwards and that's it," he smiles.

They're not ex-footballers and, typical of the people he encounters in his day to day life, they have no real interest in talking in depth about the world he has left behind.

"You don't have people asking you what are you doing or where have you been all the time," he continues. "It was nice, just a clean breakout and it was nice to step away and not be constantly thinking that I've made the wrong decision, or done this or that.

"I wasn't meeting people that I would have met that would have offered you different things, it was nice just to be able to relax and start afresh."

Perspective

That attitude shines through when he is asked to reflect on his career; a step back from the business has allowed him to put some of the noise that comes with the territory in perspective.

"It's very consuming, football," he says. "You think it's the be-all and end-all of everything and then when you come out of it and step away, it doesn't actually matter.

"Whatever people have written or said or seen on the TV, it's always ten times worse for the player. They take it to heart so much more than anyone could probably believe.

"You just have this cloud around you that everything's terrible but when it's over and you step away, you think, it didn't really matter as much as it did at the time. There's no-one else around that actually thinks about how bad you're feeling.

"If something happens and you lose a match, five or six days later you're still trying to pull yourself out of it whereas anyone else who's been at the match and watched or wrote about it, it's over. It's mentally draining. I really enjoyed it and it was my dream to play football and to be part of it so I was very lucky that I played it for so long."

Dunne's plans for the summer are fluid and it's possible they could involve a TV studio. The Euros group games in his neck of the woods don't really float his boat and he's unsure about tickets for the Ireland matches. It's unlikely he would struggle if he put his mind to it but, with a shrug of the shoulders, you sense that he is not going to lose any sleep either way.

From afar, he has monitored Ireland's progress and is sure they will do better than the creaking team that toiled in Poland four years ago.

"The quality of the teams we faced was outstanding," he continues. "I think our chance was probably the World Cup a couple of years beforehand, that's when that squad of players could have performed to a better level.

"By the time 2012 came around, it just. . . I think we were a year or maybe two years past our best as footballers. You can try and do everything and give your all but when players are better than you, they're better than you and we found that out the tough way."

The Henry handball will always be a regret, but he asserts that the scars have long since healed. In his current abode, it occasionally comes up.

"They say, 'Were you part of that team'? I say, 'Yeah' and they say, 'Sorry' (he accompanies the story with an impression of their sheepishness). I think for them they'd rather not talk about it. They know they got away with it.

"But, yeah, it's a long time ago. There's nothing you can do about it. My flight was delayed today - there's nothing I can do about that. You just move on."

His next sporting date is the Monaco Grand Prix. Dunney is doing just fine.

Irish Independent

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