TONY DUNNE had some career. It included a European Cup, two league titles, an FA Cup victory and several hundred first team games with Manchester United. Few Irish footballers achieved as much as the Dubliner, who died last Monday at the age of 78.
So why did he feel like something of a forgotten figure in Irish sport? You certainly wouldn't have described him as a household name. Yet Dunne (pictured) was there on one of the most famous nights in football history, starring at left-back as United beat Benfica in the 1968 European Cup final and playing a part in their first goal.
You'd be surprised how many people don't know the United team contained two Republic of Ireland internationals, Dunne and Shay Brennan, who was right-back at Wembley. There's a kind of historical amnesia about that era. People remember Johnny, as he was always called then, Giles but everything else before the Brady/Stapleton/O'Leary era seems to be forgotten.
Try asking your friends who was the only Republic of Ireland-born player to finish top scorer in the English top flight. They might guess Stapleton or perhaps Robbie Keane but they'll need to be pretty knowledgeable to name Andy McEvoy of Blackburn Rovers, who finished joint top of the pile on 29 goals with Jimmy Greaves in the 1964-65 season.
That achievement was no fluke either as McEvoy had hit 32 goals the previous season, a total bettered only by Greaves. The Dubliner finished his career in the League of Ireland, winning an FAI Cup medal with Limerick in 1971. He'd begun his playing days with Bray Wanderers, while Dunne had started with Shelbourne.
Manchester-born Brennan became player-manager of Waterford United when he left Old Trafford, guiding them to league titles in 1972 and 1973 and staying in the county for the rest of his life which ended when he suffered a heart attack while playing golf at the age of 63 in 2000. He doesn't get enough credit either.
Here's another question. Which Republic of Ireland international scored a goal in a European final against Real Madrid? That would have been London-born John Dempsey, who hit the target when Chelsea beat the Spanish giants 2-1 in the replayed 1971 European Cup Winners' Cup final.
It's a great goal too, an absolutely thumping volley, yet seems to have slipped into the ether along with Manchester United's 1963 FA Cup final win over Leicester City when the Red Devils didn't just have three Irish players on the side, but were captained by one of them, Cork's Noel Cantwell.
The passage of time has something to do with the fading of such deeds from the national sporting memory. Yet it's notable how much better the GAA have been in keeping the memories of their old legends alive. Christy Ring, Mick Mackey and Nicky Rackard remain names to conjure with for the modern fan, but who talks about Jimmy Dunne these days?
The Ringsend striker is one of the greatest of all Irish sportsmen. His achievement of scoring in 12 consecutive matches in the 1931-32 season remains a record for the English top flight. In eight first division seasons with Sheffield United Dunne scored 143 goals in 173 matches and another 11 in 10 FA Cup games. On New Year's Day 1930 he hit four goals against West Ham United and three days later repeated the feat against Leicester City. He also returned to the League of Ireland, steering Shamrock Rovers to two league titles and an FAI Cup win as player-manager before dying in 1949 at the tragically young age of 44.
Perhaps soccer's marginal status in a state where a substantial part of the population regarded the playing of the game as a form of treason didn't help its players when seats were being assigned in the national sporting pantheon. But there's no reason now why Jimmy Dunne shouldn't be afforded the same respect as Ring or Mackey.
There are plenty of others - Noel Cantwell, Johnny Carey, Con Martin, Peter Farrell and Charlie Hurley among them - who should be central rather than peripheral figures in the canon of Irish sporting heroes.
Irish soccer has a long and proud tradition. It didn't start with Jackie's Army.