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Dunne desperate for return to action

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Republic of Ireland's Richard Dunne relishing a return to action  David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Republic of Ireland's Richard Dunne relishing a return to action David Maher / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

Republic of Ireland's Richard Dunne relishing a return to action David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Richard Dunne is desperate to pull on the green shirt of the Republic of Ireland once again after a year without football.

Dunne has not kicked a ball in anger since the Republic's Euro 2012 finals campaign came to a disappointing end in Poznan in June with three bouts of groin surgery and a hip injury meaning he has not made a single appearance for Aston Villa or his country since.

However, the 33-year-old met up with Giovanni Trapattoni's squad at the weekend and trained with them ahead of last night's friendly draw with England at Wembley, and skipper Robbie Keane is in little doubt as to how keen his is to play some part in Sunday's friendly against Georgia at the Aviva Stadium.

Keane said: "I know he wants to. I have been rooming with him, so I know he is desperate to play.

"It's been a frustrating season for him. Obviously he hasn't played since the Euros, so I know how much it means to him.

"To come back and hopefully even play 20 minutes or something like that would certainly be good for his confidence, and to see where he is himself because it's been a tough year for him with his injury.

"It's not nice to be out, certainly for that long. I have been very lucky in my career never to be out for any more than four or five weeks, so I could never imagine what it would be like to be out for a year.

"I'd be pulling my hair out."

Dunne will be without a club when his Villa contract expires at the end of next month, and while Trapattoni has vowed to protect him as he looks for a new employer, he has as yet declined to rule him out of next Friday night's World Cup qualifier against the Faroe Islands, although his chances of being involved look remote.

However, his importance to Ireland cannot be over-estimated and the Italian is convinced he still has a major role to play for his country.

Dunne was a spectator at Wembley last night as the Republic took a shock lead through Shane Long's early header but were pegged back by Frank Lampard.

It was the first meeting between the teams since rioting England supporters forced the abandonment of a friendly at Lansdowne Road in February 1995, and after appeals for both sets of fans to show respect, the game past off largely without incident off the pitch.

Keane said: "As a nation, when you look at the 11,000 Irish fans and the way they were singing and the way they behaved themselves, it was full credit to them.

"You could easily get a few people coming over here for the wrong reasons, but they behaved themselves incredibly well, and the English fans as well, so you have to give both sets of fans credit."

PA Media