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Dunne: System's hard to beat

THIRTEEN is a lucky number for the Ireland team as Giovanni Trapattoni's side have now made it 13 games without defeat, with a side order of 10 clean sheets along the way.

And Richard Dunne, having manned a defence which kept another clean sheet on Saturday against a Bosnian side that scored an impressive 17 goals in the group stages of the Euro qualifiers (more goals per game than finalists like Ireland, France, Greece and the Czech Republic), believes that it's that mean defence which will make Ireland a force to be reckoned with in Poland.

The Bosnians joined a list that already included Northern Ireland, Scotland, Macedonia, Italy, Croatia, Slovakia and Russia as the league of nations who have failed to find the net against Ireland on that 13-match unbeaten run.

Presuming there is no cock-up against Hungary in Budapest next Monday, Ireland will extend that undefeated run to 14 games before the tricky business starts in Poland against Croatia, who enjoyed a comfortable 3-1 win at home to Estonia on Friday night.

Dunne shrugged off praise for his role in keeping Edin Dzeko scoreless on Saturday and insisted that it was the manager's much-maligned system which makes sure that, no matter who plays in the back four or in goal for Ireland, the outcome is the same: very few goals conceded, and for Dunne that's the perfect platform to take to a major finals.

"Since the manager has taken over we have done the same thing. We're hard to play against and hard to break down, and we did that again against the Bosnians on Saturday," said Dunne.



CHANCES

"It was really good to get that win on Saturday. We had a few chances to make the scoreline look a bit better but the main thing is that we ground out a result.

"That's 13 games unbeaten now and a lot of clean sheets and that says a lot about the players, but it also says a lot about the manager and how he organises us. The way we play everyone knows what they have to do, no matter who is in the team.

"We have had a lot of changes in the back four over the last while but we keep getting results and it's a long time since anybody beat us. If we keep doing our job, we will be very hard to beat in the finals."

Dunne has a point about the changes in personnel: during the qualifiers four different players have been used in central defence alone (Dunne, Sean St Ledger, Darren O'Dea and John O'Shea), with five players also used at full back (O'Shea, Kevin Kilbane, Kevin Foley, Stephen Kelly and Stephen Ward).

And the outcome is the same. An Irish defence which at one stage handed out goals so cheaply (we conceded 11 times in just four games at one stage under the last manager) is now among the most miserly in the European game. Of course, Bosnia at home in a friendly is another world from a meeting with Croatia in the white-hot heat of a European Championship finals, especially as some of the Bosnian players seemed to have their minds on the next, and more enjoyable part of their end-of-season tour (a game in Chicago next week), than on their Dublin test.



FRIENDLY

Of Saturday's game, Dunne said: "Croatia will play a similar formation to Bosnia so there is something we can learn. But for Bosnia, that game on Saturday was just an end-of-season friendly. For us, it was a full-blooded preparation game for a major finals.

"Tactically and technically Croatia will be on a level with Bosnia so we now have an idea of what to expect.

"It matters to us that we won the game, but the match probably didn't matter that much to Bosnia. They haven't had a competitive game in six months and won't have another one until next season. We didn't want to leave Dublin without getting a win and putting the fans in the mood for the finals," added Dunne, who also allayed any fears about his injury.

"I feel fine now, I have had the same problem for the last few weeks but it's fine now," he said.


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