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Richard is far from Dunne

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Richard Dunne in action for Ireland. Brendan Moran / Sportsfile

Richard Dunne in action for Ireland. Brendan Moran / Sportsfile

Richard Dunne in action for Ireland. Brendan Moran / Sportsfile

HARRY REDKNAPP has always been a man to see some glitter in a tired old pro's eyes or rescue the footballing equivalent of a lame thoroughbred from the boneyard.

Ireland and Richard Dunne have reason to thank him and, up until a few weeks ago, Kevin Doyle must have thought that Redknapp's magic could work for him too.

A nasty knee strain put an end to his loan spell at Loftus Road and the tin hat on it for a player who must have been eying up late May/early June and Ireland's friendly schedule as an opportunity which, just a year ago, would have seemed unlikely to say the least.

Shackles

After Redknapp released him from the shackles he has been wearing at Molineux for much too long, Doyle must have felt that he was emerging from a dark room, but now he's back at Wolves and a big doubt hangs over his chances of returning in time to show Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane what he can do.

Imagine how circumstances like that would suck the life out anyone's resolve to keep going.

Doyle's fate has been one of the big disappointments of recent years for Irish football supporters, but it must have been soul destroying for the man himself to watch the optimism and buzz he created at Reading crumble slowly under the weight of a £40k salary and terminal decline at Wolves.

Dunne had more than a few moments of deep inner contemplation over the last 18 months, when it must have appeared to him that his career would end as a brief headline on Sky Sports News and a sudden, frightening ejection from the environment which surrounds professional footballers like a warm blanket.

Dunne must be financially secure. He has been in the big league in salary terms for seven or eight years and must have reached more than £20m in that time.

So money is not an issue for him, but he doesn't seem like someone who would be interested in management and a premature end to his playing career would have impacted on him in a major way.

That's why his words last week about the contract extension he had been given were unusually heartfelt and underlined the debt of gratitude he must feel towards Redknapp.

His salary at QPR, thought to be somewhere around £50k a week, would indicate that there were other suitors prepared to give Dunne a whirl last summer, even if there was no guarantee that he would get through the first match of the season.

But none of them could bring Redknapp's reputation as a remarkable man manager to the table and, because of the fragile nature of Dunne's groin/hip injury, he badly needed someone graced with patience and intelligence.

History

The fact that the two men had history must have helped oil the wheels. When Dunne was leaving a big salary behind at Manchester City in 2009 and working through his options, he got as far as Portsmouth and an evening out with Redknapp.

They hit it off and Portsmouth had money to spend and a salary offer well north of £3m on the table, but Dunne chose Villa Park instead.

Thankfully, they eventually found common cause at QPR and you could argue that Redknapp was the only manager capable of managing Dunne's fitness in such a way that a contract extension could even be contemplated.

Certainly, Martin O'Neill has good reason to tip his cap to Redknapp. Dunne's contract extension is an indicator that, mentally and physically, he is capable of playing at a high level and a couple of times a week if necessary.

It also takes some of the guesswork out of O'Neill's planning for the first run of qualifying games in the autumn. He clearly likes the idea of Marc Wilson, another one of Redknapp's men, as a long-term option at centre-back, but it would be impossible to turn away from Dunne as first choice if he is fit and in form.

O'Neill would want to see Dunne having some involvement in the summer friendly schedule, but what if QPR reach the promotion play-off final on May 24?

Remember, Roy Keane is an active contributor to whatever debate is going on around the proposed trip to America to play Portugal and Costa Rica, which, to date, has not been confirmed.

Even if QPR fail to make the final, it is hard to imagine that Keane will be recommending that Dunne (or anyone else for that matter) should be asked to turn up in Dublin a few days before the friendly against Turkey on May 25 in the Aviva and sent home to his family more than three weeks later – just in time for the start of pre-season.


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