herald

Saturday 16 December 2017

Braveheart Richard Dunne facing final curtain of career

QPR's Richard Dunne
QPR's Richard Dunne
Queens Park Rangers defender Richard Dunne

IT would be no surprise if sometime around the end of May, stories about Richard Dunne's latest recovery from a career threatening knock surface and Ireland's great-hearted defender emerges to plough on with his football life defying age and injury.

But this time you just wonder. The three times repaired damage he suffered to the internal workings of muscles around his hip should have stopped him cold a few years back but Dunne's phlegmatic nature allowed him to soldier through month after month of perpetual disappointment until he was ready to play again.

This time, the injury report cites the knee as the problem and suggests a three month recovery. His season is over and at 35, a statement like that carries a deeper meaning.

The timing of the injury was appropriately in sympathy with the demise of Harry Redknapp, the Premier League's patron of lost causes, who took a punt on Dunne and got his money's worth and a lot more in return.

In fact, any manager who ever came into contact with Dunne profited from the experience although in Kevin Keegan's case at Maine Road, he had to invest significant energy and £3m in the project.

Keegan was the man who took the time to give Dunne personal training sessions when he felt that the then young Dubliner was straying from the right path.

It took years for Dunne to shake loose the reputation he had for lowering pints and he deserves enormous credit for the fact that he will be remembered when he does hang up his boots as one of Ireland's, indeed the Premier League's, great defenders.

Dunne was unlucky enough to make his mistakes at a time when the internet was beginning to boom and camera phones reached publishable quality. A few snaps of a beer laden table and that was that.

FEELING

There is always the nagging feeling however, that the years when he was grabbing headlines for the wrong reasons had a major impact on the trajectory of his career.

World Cup 2002 came in the middle of that spell and that could have and should have been the stage for him to show the world how good he was.

People forget his starring role in two of the pivotal qualifying games for World Cup 2002 against Portugal away and Holland at Lansdowne Road but by the time Japan arrived, Dunne, only 22 at the time, was struggling with fitness and anyone who watched him in the opening few training sessions in the camp in Izumo knew why Mick McCarthy had no plans to use him.

They were the lost years when someone like Alex Ferguson might have liked Dunne's prodigious potential, but looked elsewhere for promising young talent.

Fate had a different plan and while he nibbled at success with Manchester City and won the fans' Player of the Year award four times in his eight years there, his chance of climbing to the top of the hill disappeared when he signed for Aston Villa.

With Martin O'Neill he reached sixth in the Premier League but that was as good as it got. QPR was defiant shout against the march of time but hardly a possible source of glory.

Now, he faces the inevitable and if he needs any consolation for a career which is light on medals, he should take it from his store of international memories. He was world class when Ireland needed him and Ireland needed him a lot.

Promoted articles

Entertainment News