Euro 2012: Dunne down about Irish slump
Richard Dunne has admitted his heartache at Ireland's early Euro 2012 exit.
Dunne and his team-mates arrived in Poland believing they had a genuine chance of at least reaching the quarter-finals, but successive defeats by Croatia and Spain have rendered their final Group C fixture against Italy largely irrelevant, for them at least.
The 32-year-old Aston Villa defender offered a frank assessment of Ireland's performances to date, which have seen them lose 3-1 to the Croatians and 4-0 to the Spaniards. He said: "It's heartbreaking. It's your dream to go and play in the championships and play well and be brilliant, and it's just not happened for us, so it's heartbreaking."
Dunne added: "As much as we wanted to do well, we know we haven't. We are playing against teams that are better than us and it's hard to accept that our best at the moment isn't good enough."
Manager Giovanni Trapattoni has known for the four years he has been in charge that Ireland lack the superstars some of their opponents can boast, but has always been confident that the fighting spirit, pride and organisation of his players would bridge the gap.
However, a 14-game unbeaten run came to a sorry end against Croatia, and the mauling they received at the hands of Spain simply exposed the wounds once again. Worryingly, they conceded in the opening few minutes of each half in both games as the resilience on which they have based their recent run deserted them just when they needed it most.
Dunne said: "It might have been a different tournament if we got through the first 10 minutes in both games. That's the one regret - if we could have got through them, we might have seen a different game, we might have grown a little bit. We have just not had the chance.
"We did everything we possibly could. You have to hold your hands up. Our normal game is pressure, pressure, pressure and...the teams are too good."
Trapattoni's men could be forgiven for wishing they could head straight back to Dublin and avoid what could be another tough 90 minutes if they do not rediscover their form quickly. Italy must win and hope the Spain v Croatia result goes in their favour if they are to avoid an early trip home, and that will make for another intense affair.
However, Dunne said: "We don't want to go home because we don't want to go home feeling like we are. If we win on Monday night, it restores a bit of pride, not just in Irish football, but in ourselves."