We have a great opportunity against Gibraltar to score goals and get off to a good start - Richard DunneMon, Mar 18 2019
Brendan Graham reports from RTE Studios.
Former Ireland international and colossus Richard Dunne was last night inducted into the FAI Hall of Fame at the International Awards in RTE.
The Tallaght native joined Emma Byrne as the latest entrants to the coveted Hall of Fame list for Irish football with Dunne joining former international team-mates and friends Damien Duff and Robbie Keane who were themselves inducted into the annals of Irish football legends in 2017 and 2016 respectively.
Speaking last night moments after Dunne’s induction, friend and international team-mate Robbie Keane spoke fondly about him and was delighted to have the honour of soldiering alongside him for so long.
“Firstly, Congratulations Richie, it was an unbelievable career” said Keane at the ceremony.
“He was a great room-mate for fifteen years and a great role model certainly for young Irish players coming through. He is one of the best Irish players that this country has ever seen.
“He defended so well on that famous day against Russia, he was absolutely instrumental to us coming away with a massive point there.
“It’s good that one of my best friends is winning this great award.”
Speaking shortly after to Extratime.ie, Dunne echoed Keane’s sentiments with regards to how tight knit that particular group of players were right from the U-15 age group through all the way to senior.
“Yeah it’s brilliant to hear such nice words from such good friends and team-mates, it’s really nice, I was very lucky with the team-mates I had and the players I played with. We were all and still are very close and have very good friendships.
“Being part of the Irish squad for fifteen years or something like that was an amazing thing and it goes full circle. It was a great group, even going right the way back to U15 and U16 it was a fantastic group and a lot of us came right through together and it’s nice being able to share those experiences and memories with friends and with people who you grew up with.
Being a senior Ireland international for fourteen years is naturally going to bring its ups and downs like anything would over that length of time.
From European Championships to World Cups, from Mick McCarthy to Thierry Henry, Richard Dunne has seen it all during a stellar international career with plenty of memories to share. His favourite of the lot, beating Holland at Lansdowne Road, a result that sealed qualification for the 2002 World Cup which brought its own unforgettable memories.
Dunne is hopeful that McCarthy is the right man to have at the helm again and believes a good start this week is crucial to get the fans back on side and to get the momentum building again towards a successful campaign.
“I hope his appointment can get the Aviva bouncing again, a lot of it is down to the players and how they are seen by the fans. I think if Mick can do what he done in 2002 and build that same camaraderie amongst the group, let them grow as people and let them at the same time have fun and enjoy themselves together, that will translate onto the pitch and the fans will see that.
“From that hopefully they will appreciate it and get behind the team. We just have to make sure we are as positive as possible every step of the way in trying to get ourselves to the Euros.
“I think the whole thing is a bit down in the dumps. We’re not scoring goals, we’re not exciting the fans and giving them something to shout about, I think if we can do that it will make such a difference. We have a great opportunity against Gibraltar to score goals and get off to a good start. That will hopefully create excitement for the fans that will spill over for the Georgia game a few days later. Building momentum early on in campaigns like this is crucial”
“There’s tough games but like I’ve said if you can get off to that good start it just gives you confidence going further into the campaign, we know that there will be tougher games as the group goes along but hopefully the other teams will be looking at us as well thinking they are off to a good start so Ireland is going to be a tough game for us as well.
“The teams in the group are strong solid sides but they are not teams that I think we have to massively fear, we’re not a million miles away from their level with the players we have so I don’t think we have reason to be fearful and have to be as positive as we can about the entire thing.”
Dunne’s performances in the green jersey were often described with words like man mountain, colossus, defensive stalwart. So often he has been described as not only one of the best defenders we’ve ever had but one of the best players to ever pull on the green jersey full stop.
For the second year in a row, Brighton defender Shane Duffy picked up the FAI Senior Player of the Year award. This tells its own story from a point of view of where to start when looking for recent positives as we prepare to enter a new qualifying campaign.
Although Dunne agreed that the defensive line is where we have seen the most progress and success in recent months and years, he also pointed out as well as we are doing in that area, it may be to the detriment of the other end of the pitch. Ireland have failed to score a single goal in their last four senior internationals, three Nations League games and one friendly in recent months.
“We’ve been so solid at the back in the last few years.” said Dunne as he looked ahead to the start of the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.
“We’ve done really well and maybe to the detriment of what are doing going the other way. We have to sacrifice a little bit of that maybe to try and achieve a good balance, goals are what win games and I think we need to find a player who can have a good run, who can play in whatever it may be, eight games where he scores six or seven goals and goes on a run and from that hopefully to try and create new memories and new moments for this generation.”
Goals shouldn’t be a problem against Gibraltar on Saturday who are currently ranked 194th in the world and who only scored their first ever goal in a full international match just four years ago and have conceded a total of 139 goals in just 36 games since their competitive international football journey began in 2014.
A regular goal scorer in a green jersey is something that has been difficult to come by since the retirement of Robbie Keane in August 2016. There have been plenty of players tried and tested in the last number of years and Mick has decided to include some new faces in his 23 man squad for the upcoming qualifiers in the next week.
Shamrock Rovers midfielder Jack Byrne and West Ham midfielder Josh Cullen are two of this week’s additions and Dunne is encouraged that McCarthy isn’t afraid to give these players a chance and reward good performances regardless of the level they might be playing at.
“It’s great to see, This is what we have been looking for is players to get the opportunities that their performances deserve, players who are doing really well at U21 level or within the League of Ireland or whatever level it might be to be given their opportunity.
“We want to find the best players we can and I think Mick has scoured everywhere to try find the best players he can. We’ve got a squad now that hopefully we can be proud of and if we give them the backing, fingers crossed they’ll do what we are all hoping for and that is to qualify.”