Irish boss 'optimistic' Dunne will be fit to renew St Ledger partnership
IRELAND completed their final training session before their trip to Yerevan by working extensively on set-pieces, an avenue which proved particularly profitable in the World Cup campaign.
A concern, however, was that their main target man for such situations was watching from the sidelines. Richard Dunne's importance to Ireland is, of course, primarily based around his duties as the organiser of the back four.
However, he also chipped in with a pair of headed goals against Bulgaria, from crosses that were expertly delivered by Stephen Hunt. The latter will be missed in Yerevan -- a frustrated Giovanni Trapattoni watched yesterday as Aiden McGeady and Liam Lawrence delayed drills with poor deliveries that sailed over everyone -- while Dunne's back problems are another reason for trepidation.
Nevertheless, his manager is absolutely sure that the Aston Villa man will be fine for the opening Euro 2012 qualifier.
"Richard, I am sure," he said. "I am optimistic, because it is only a precaution. He will train with us tomorrow. It is just knock on the muscle, but he made some circles (he jogged on his own for a period) and he is fine."
Trapattoni doesn't keep his cards too close to his chest during the build-up to games like this one; the line-up of his team in training indicates what the XI will be when the match comes around.
So, the men with the orange bibs in Malahide are the chosen ones. Paul Green alongside Glenn Whelan, McGeady and Lawrence on the flanks and, as ever, Kevin Doyle and Robbie Keane up front.
The latter left off his knee brace yesterday, vindicating his belief that he'll be fine to start the campaign in full working order.
While late interest from Besiktas added to the intrigue surrounding his club situation, his focus for now is on Ireland -- and Trapattoni is happy enough with that for his own selfish reasons, as he anticipates a big performance from a player who is chomping at the bit.
"It is better at the moment that he plays a few games, but he doesn't need the conditioning after playing 90 minutes (at the weekend).
"He is proud, and I'm sure he will play like Robbie Keane can. He is mature and balanced in his mind about football because, from many years in England, he knows the situation."
Defensively, Dunne will renew his association with Sean St Ledger at the heart of the defence, leaving John O'Shea and Kevin Kilbane to fill the full-back berths.
That will come as a disappointment to Fulham's Stephen Kelly who turns 27 on Monday and believes he should have more than the 18 caps currently in his possession. He felt that his performances in the friendlies with Brazil, Algeria and Paraguay earlier this year had put in a strong case for inclusion.
"I've been consistently in the squad a long time now, but I don't think I've played as many games as I would have liked or probably should have, I think," said Kelly.
"I thought I acquitted myself very well (in the three friendly matches). People were very appreciative of me in those games, the manager as well. I couldn't have really done any more to stake a claim for a position. That's all you can do. I think I've done well enough to be in with a shout."