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Dunne insists Clark facing battle to take left-back slot from Kilbane

RICHARD Dunne was fulsome in his praise of clubmate Ciaran Clark after his international debut on Tuesday night.

But the Dubliner is not writing off Kevin Kilbane off by any stretch of the imagination after the young Aston Villa defender did well in his first start in the Ireland No 3 jersey.

Kilbane has been Giovanni Trapattoni's first-choice left-back since he took over as Ireland boss in 2007, but was left out of the win over Wales. Dunne reckons the 34-year-old Huddersfield Town defender will be back.

"He's done great," he said of his young team-mate. "It's always a bit nervous making your debut, but I think it was the ideal game, playing against a British side, which he faces every week. I think, like everybody else, he settled down in the second half and played a lot better.

"I think he shows every week that he has the quality to play here. But Kevin Kilbane has been brilliant and I'm sure he's got plenty more games in him, so whoever the manager chooses everyone will be happy.

Dunne explained how he played a part in convincing the youngster to declare for Ireland having captained England at underage level, but he reckons that a starting spot against Macedonia next month would be a significant step up.

"After one of the pre-season games I met his parents in the players' lounge and I asked Ciaran the next day because I heard their accents and just asked him if he would be interested and straight away he would be delighted.

"It would be different (to make the step up), but he has to face them (better international sides) at some stage, whether it is next month or whenever. He is going, hopefully, to become a regular in side, so the more games he can get under his belt the better.

"It's tough. You'll get maybe a full stadium for the qualifier next time against Macedonia," Dunne added. "There is pressure, you need the points, but that is what the Premier League is supposed to be about, it is the toughest league around. I think any player who can play in that can adjust to international football pretty quick."

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