Richard Dunne: Ireland need to learn to win big games without the old guard
Richard Dunne has said that it is vitally important that a new generation of leaders emerge over the forthcoming World Cup qualifying campaign as Ireland seek to move on in the absence of previous stalwarts.
While the likes of John O’Shea, Glenn Whelan and Stephen Ward have remained, the Republic Ireland must now navigate a qualification group without veterans such as the retired Robbie Keane and Shay Given.
In their stead, one-time tyros in the vein of Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick and, even the well-established Seamus Coleman, need to assume the reins and establish the habit of spearheading victories during pivotal encounters.
One of Ireland’s greatest ever defenders, Dunne told Newstalk’s Off the Ball that wins in the upcoming encounters with Georgia and Moldova would be an ideal catalyst for the dawning of a new era.
"Because it's a newish sort of group of players all playing together and the so-called old guard have dropped out over the last couple of months, it's important for them to win important qualifying games, whether that be at home or away.
“If they can pick up the six points (against Georgia and Moldova), it'll be a major boost for the lads going into the tougher games ahead."
In discussing Ireland’s recent 2-2 draw with Serbia, Dunne sited the impact made from the bench by Stephen Quinn and Daryl Murphy, who netted the vital equaliser.
The former Man City centre half said the process of building the strongest possible squad needs to begin post haste.
"The last game away in Serbia sort of proved that point,” he said of the introduction of the aforementioned duo.
“Things maybe weren't going our way and we had the ability to bring on Quinn and Murphy to change the game back in our favour."
However, Dunne claimed that, should Wes Hoolahan start as a sub against Georgia tomorrow, the Norwich playmaker is likely to be Martin O’Neill’s only viable alternative option if Ireland are still chasing a result in the latter stages.
"Apart from Wes if he is on the bench, there's not that load of options really. We need to try and fill out the squad over this campaign I think.”