Thursday 23 January 2020

Richard Dunne: 'Ireland are in a situation where two wins gets us to the Euros and I have to cling to that hope'

Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy. Photo: Niall Carson/PA
Richard Dunne

Richard Dunne

I try not to be too negative or pessimistic around Christmas time so I’d like to be upbeat about Ireland and what 2020, and the Euros can bring.

I always believe that any Ireland team has a chance, that this is our time, this is our campaign.

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Ireland are in a situation where two wins gets us to the Euros and I have to cling to that hope.

But a lot depends on how our younger players, the likes of Troy Parrott and Aaron Connolly, cope and it’s always a challenge for young players to deliver again and again when the focus is on them.

This time last year I expected Ireland to end up in a play-off.

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Aaron Connolly has had a rapid rise (Steven Paston/PA)

Expectations were as low as I can remember. We are still a long way from qualifying, but you have to hope that players like Connolly can push on and this could be the start of a new generation of players.

Yet it’s all about results and if we don’t qualify for the Euros, it will be right back to the doom and gloom. 2019 was a case of so far, so good for Mick McCarthy and the team.

Being realistic, a play-off was about all we could hope for, but winning back-to-back away games is very tough.

If we don’t have belief we don’t have anything, so that’s what I cling to. The prize at the end of this is playing in a major finals in our own country. That’s too big a prize to throw away.

What’s going on in the FAI won’t affect the players in the game in Slovakia in March. Players are able to put distractions like that to one side and just play their game. It’s the long-term ramifications of the state of the FAI that worry me.

We are a nation who have qualified for major finals, so for it to be even considered that the FAI and the team might not exist is incredible, but that’s where we are.

We always need a new generation of players and that’s what is in danger due to the financial state of the FAI.

If one of the costs of this is losing the development programmes that have been in place for a few years, that would be a worry and a real shame. Coaches are trying to develop players, to make Irish football successful at all levels.

And those coaches are worried for their futures.

It may be a question of priorities into the future. Whether it’s just having a senior team that can compete and qualify or more a case of looking to the underage set up and trying to develop players for the future.

Instead of cutting budgets for youth development, let’s see if there are other areas that can be cut.

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