Sunday 19 November 2017

Dunne '90pc sure' of starting against Faroes

Damian Spellman

RICHARD Dunne is "90 per cent" certain to start Friday night's World Cup qualifier against the Faroe Islands after a remarkable return to prominence.

The 33-year-old had not played any football for either club or country this season until he was introduced as a second-half substitute during last night's 4-0 friendly victory over Georgia.


However, having seen him confirm his fitness following a 12-month injury lay-off, both in training and during his 25-minute cameo at the Aviva Stadium, manager Giovanni Trapattoni is ready to pitch him straight back into competitive action.


The 74-year-old Italian said: "Sure. I said 'probably' yesterday, but after this performance - it was important to see him in contact with the opponent - I think against the Faroes, he will be 90 per cent on the pitch."


That would complete an astonishing turn-around for Dunne, who has admitted he feared his career could be over as he underwent three bouts of surgery in a bid to solve a persistent groin injury.


Trapattoni has been cautious over one of his key performers since welcoming him back into the squad in London last weekend, but he will have few qualms in naming him in his starting line-up.


Indeed, his reluctance to confirm that Dunne will definitely start was the result of a general rather than a particular concern.


He added with a smile: "Yesterday evening, the players finished the game and I let them go free.


"Today, I won't see them. I am not a magician, I have to wait. When he comes back, I will call him and the rest of the team.


"Maybe two or three come back after the day off, they drink beer, they go out with their wife and an accident happens.


"I hope not, but maybe. I can't say to you now '100 per cent, yes'. Ninety per cent, yes. When they are here, I will be clear."


Trapattoni placed the same percentage on midfielder Wes Hoolahan's chances of making a second successive start after he impressed against the Georgians.


There has been a growing clamour for the Norwich playmaker's inclusion in recent months and his international manager has admitted he had perhaps been mistaken in not responding to it earlier.


However, Trapattoni insists he has never forgotten about a man whose ability to unlock a tightly-packed defence could prove invaluable on Friday evening.


Asked if Hoolahan would start, he said: "Ninety per cent, yes. We have no training today, but after training tomorrow, we can put things in place a little bit more."


The 31-year-old is under serious consideration because both James McCarthy and Shane Long are suspended, although Trapattoni is adamant he did not need last night's game to know his qualities.


He said: "Hoolahan, I knew before he could do this. When you asked me before, he was 30 years old and we were starting a new generation for the next season.


"I have said maybe I ignored this a little bit, but we qualified [for the Euro 2012 finals] with [Darron] Gibson, with [Keith] Andrews, with [Glenn] Whelan and we continued with this.


"But when in the past you have asked me about these names, I don't forget. I didn't forget [Lee] Carsley, who has now retired, I didn't forget also Steven Reid.


"We keep an eye every weekend on all the players. We don't forget. We have a list of 10 names - before we picked [Jeff] Hendrick, people would have said 'Who is Hendrick?'."


Ireland must beat the Faroes if they are to keep alive their hopes of snatching the runners-up spot in Group C ahead of Austria and Sweden, and Wednesday night's battling draw against England at Wembley and the victory over Georgia has strengthened Trapattoni's belief that they can achieve their aim.


He said: "We don't have great stars, we don't have great players. We are a good team with our quality, with our technique, but we must play always with this intensity, with this concentration, with this attitude.


"Only then can we have the opportunity not to dream, but to think we can qualify for the World Cup."

Press Association

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