Richard Dunne tells David Hennessy about his Premiership goals for Queens Park Rangers and that he will never play again for the Republic of Ireland
Richard Dunne’s contribution to Republic of Ireland could simply be quantified as fourteen years, 80 caps and eight goals but that wouldn’t tell half the story. The defender, who announced his retirement from international football last month, has been the team’s best stopper for many years and anyone who saw his Herculean performance against Russia in Moscow in 2011 will know that he put his body on the line again and again to make sure Ireland were not beaten. The point gained from that 0-0 draw was crucial to Ireland’s qualification for Euro 2012. Now Republic of Ireland must look ahead to a new campaign without the services of their most experienced and respected defender.
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill was recently quoted as saying that Richard’s decision, although respected, was a shame as Dunne still has much to offer the international team. When asked if there is any chance of reconsidering at the Queen’s Park Rangers training ground last week, Dunne answers: “Erm… no. It’s something that I thought long and hard about. It’s very difficult to come to the decision to retire, to then have to do it in a year’s time is not something I really want to do. It is what it is and I think being in the Premier league and being fit on a weekly basis is very important to me. I think just having that little break will benefit me.”
O’Neill signed Dunne for Aston Villa where he was his club boss for a year: “I had a chat with him about it but I had made up my mind and he said something similar (that Dunne would be missed) on the phone. It’s very nice of him to say that I could still be part of it but it’s a part of my career that has been and I’ve enjoyed. Now, I’ll just have to concentrate on staying fit and getting into the QPR team.”
Vital in Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2012 qualifying and tournament finals, Richard has had problems with injuries that did not see him feature as much in the last campaign: “The last two years have probably helped me make the decision in terms of slowly coming away from the group and not being part of it for so much. It’s easier now to just walk away before the start of the campaign. I honestly couldn’t say I would definitely be available for the next two and a half years so it was the right time and the decision was made on that basis. I can’t guarantee that I would be available (for Euro 2016) and in time there might be another disappointment. My Ireland career is what it was and it was really enjoyable. I loved it but it’s over now.”
On Thursday last week, Martin O’Neill named a provisional 36-man squad for a friendly against Oman and a European qualifier against Georgia. The latter will be his first competitive game in charge: “I saw the squad announced yesterday and as much as I would like to still be playing for Ireland, I’m also looking forward to the little break in a couple of weeks’ time. We have enough hard games here that when the breaks do come around, I’ll appreciate them and hopefully make the most of them so I can go into every game after feeling fresh and ready to go again.”
O’Neill named a squad that had no surprises with all who got the nod capped already: “Obviously, you want to see new players coming through, internationals for the future. As it is getting very close to the qualifiers now, it’s probably hard at times to throw new players straight in.”
Dunne points out it could have been different. 18-year-old Jack Grealish who plays for Aston Villa has starred for Republic of Ireland at underage level but Birmingham-born teen is undecided about whether his future lies with Ireland or England: “I think they tried with Jack Grealish, I think if we could get hold of him, he’s a player who can really be a star for Ireland. I’ve seen him in training at Villa and I’ve seen a couple of clips of him at Notts County. If Ireland could get him, it would be brilliant.”
With his 35th birthday approaching, how long does Dunne see retiring from the international scene extending his career? “Just having ten days or two weeks of no competitive football is a big thing in the middle of the season. We have three periods between now and Christmas where we can get that break in. I’ve got a contract until the end of the season here and ideally, I would like to stay and play for another couple of years after that. The more rest I can get in that period, the better.”
Richard, who has played for Everton, Man City and Aston Villa, is now lining up alongside Rio Ferdinand and Steven Caulker in a three man defence for QPR. How has he found the new system: “I think it’s the in thing at the moment. Obviously it takes a bit of getting used to, we’ve been doing it for the last few weeks in training and it’s coming together. As a three in the game last Saturday ( against Hull City), we didn’t concede too many chances. They scored from a set piece but in open play, we seemed to be fairly tight and I think the more we practice and the more we play, we’ll get better.
“They’re two great defenders. Rio has got a wealth of experience behind him and he’s won lots of stuff. I think that winning mentality is what the squad needs just to be able to drive us forward. I think over the period of the season, the two of them will prove how valuable they are.”
Ferdinand had not long arrived at Loftus Road when he took Dunne’s number five shirt so the Irishman now wears 22. Rio did say he would make it up to him by being Richard’s man servant, offering massages etc. Has Rio delivered on what he promised? “Not yet, no. I’ll have to pull him up on it soon.
“No, it (the shirt number) was never an issue for me. We were away in Germany and he came and asked if he could take it and I was happy enough to give it to him.”
Harry Redknapp has been busy strengthening his squad with new signings as well as recruiting former England manager Glenn Hoddle as a coach: “We’ve got two new players (France’s Loic Remy and Eduardo Vargas of Chile) who have been at the world cup so I think throughout the squad in every position, we have competition which is great. We always believed that we had enough in the squad to stay in the league and I think what the manager has added has boosted that confidence.”
Dunne has played over 500 league games in his career. QPR’s promotion ensures the aging defender escapes another punishing championship season as in the lower division they also play in midweek as well as at the weekend: “It’s a very tough league, the championship. You hear people saying it’s much better playing every midweek rather than training, but I suppose the older you get, it does change a little bit. You do need your rest. You need time to recover. In the Premier League, there’s more time on the training pitch, more time to rest. It does help mentally knowing that you’re not playing every midweek. Then, the quality goes up so it’s much of a muchness really.”