| 6.2°C Dublin

McGrath fears for Dunne's fitness ahead of Ireland's Euro odyssey

PAUL McGRATH is worried about Richard Dunne's fitness heading into this summer's European Championships, but says that the big defender is capable of performing while less than 100pc.

The Irish legend has spoken many times of his admiration for Dunne and is concerned at the length of time that the Aston Villa man has spent sidelined with his collarbone problem. Dunne is travelling to America for further rehabilitation.

McGrath thinks that Giovanni Trapattoni may bring Dunne even if he is below pair, stating that the Tallaght native is one of the few players with the quality to overcome an interrupted preparation.

Famously, McGrath produced a starring display against Italy in the 1994 World Cup while suffering with an arm problem.

"I think most people in Ireland would attribute us being there to Richard," said McGrath yesterday. "He is one of the players we need to be at their best. Even if he gets games in beforehand, I'd be dicey about him being up to scratch, so I'd be desperate for him to be okay.

"We're at the stage where he needs to be getting games or at least on a fitness regime to make it to the Euros. We need him, but the main thing is, Trap needs him, so he might give him extra time before making a final decision. But an 80pc fit Richard Dunne, I'd bring.

frightening

"I think he can do it. When I saw the Russian game (last September), I thought it was frightening; it was almost like he did it on his own. If you are playing around a lad like that it just gives you encouragement."

McGrath was speaking at the Aviva Stadium at the launch of John Giles' Second Annual Walk of Dreams. Last year's first 'walk' raised €360,000, which was divided between community projects and football clubs and Giles is hoping for a successful renewal.

Inevitably, the man of the moment, James McClean, was on the agenda yesterday. He received an incredible ovation at Lansdowne Road in last month's friendly with the Czech Republic and both Giles and McGrath would bring the Sunder- land man to Poland, though neither are sure that Trap will do the same.

Still, McGrath is confident about Ireland's prospects. He believes that anything is possible if the attitude is good and recalled how Jack Charlton's men saw off Spain in a World Cup qualifier back in 1989 with an aggressive performance. He thinks that Vicente del Bosque's current squad are better than any team he ever faced, but says a similar approach will be essential.

"I wouldn't give them an inch," he said. "You have to put it up to them or they'll roll you over. But for Irish players, playing the better teams seems to bring out something in them. As long as that happens, I honestly think they'll get out of the group."

Irish Independent