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Warrior Dunne will be missed


Richard Dunne. Picture: Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

Richard Dunne. Picture: Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

Richard Dunne. Picture: Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

GREAT international careers don't always end in a great way.

Think of Liam Brady, hauled off just 26 minutes into the first half of a poxy home friendly against Finland. Or Tony Cascarino fighting off thugs in police uniforms in the Turkish city of Bursa. Kevin Kilbane helped out in an important win away to Macedonia but never got to say goodbye properly.

So it's probably fitting that there was no big fuss, no garlands of roses, for Richard Dunne's last encounter with the Ireland side. He simply issued a statement, via the FAI, last night to say that for Dunne, his time with Ireland was done. The 80th and last cap of a proud international career came in last year's World Cup qualifying win over Kazakhstan, a nothing game under a caretaker manager in front of a Lansdowne Road stadium which was less than half-full.

Dunne as a player and as a man was no-frills and no messing. In an era where footballers try to pick the most garish colours on earth for their football boots, Dunne was part of the old stock for whom football boots were black and nothing else. He wasn't on twitter and probably hates the nonsense that is social media.

Dunne would probably have hated a big ceremony to say farewell to the Irish fans. His career was anything but understated - in his first two competitive games for Ireland the rookie had to stand up to men like Kluivert, Cocu, Seedorf, Figo and Rui Costa and he didn't blink, helping Ireland to vital draws away from home.

But Dunne has done things his way, announcing his decision to quit Ireland now instead of dragging things out to a point approaching parody and self-pity. Aware that he will be 35 years old by the time the Euro 2016 campaign gets into gear properly later this year, aware that his body has been battered by recent injuries, he has decided to go. And go quietly, but proudly.

"Retiring from international football has been an extremely difficult decision for me to make," Dunne said last night, a move that pre-empted likely questions about his international future today when as he is due to face the media in Maynooth ahead of QPR's friendly with Shamrock Rovers tomorrow.

"I have represented Ireland since I was 15 years of age, and have thoroughly enjoyed all the highs and lows that have come with playing for my country. I will continue to support the team as they embark upon their new campaign under Martin O'Neill, and have every faith that they will qualify for France 2016."

Just as he was proud to have helped the team to Poland in 2012 with that one-man defence in Moscow, where Ireland somehow kept the Russians scoreless and snaffled an unlikely but invaluable away point, he was distraught at the let-downs.

The loss to France in Paris. And that humiliation in Poland when Ireland shipped nine goals in three games.

Dunne went through physical pain in the line of national service - that face-scraping encounter with the running track in Moscow comes to mind. But defeats and their deflation also hurt.

It's been clear for some time that his Ireland career was about to end. There was a brief respite last year, Dunne playing against Georgia in Dublin for his first taste of football of any kind since the Euros 12 months earlier, the worst period of a career which was in the main injury-free.

But time was closing in slowly. Dunne didn't make the squads under Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane, the new Ireland boss excusing Dunne from duty as he was concentrating on his club career. But when offered the chance to make a statement about Dunne's future importance to Ireland when he spoke to the media in Mullingar a week ago, O'Neill was less than forthright.

He will still be around - Dunne will be lining out in his native Tallaght against Rovers tomorrow, surely a big deal for Dunne.

But his absence leaves a massive hole in the Irish defence that will take a long time to fill.