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Thursday 17 October 2019

Richard Dunne: Brighton rock a solid base

Brighton clubmates Shane Duffy (left) and Aaron Connolly can play a big roll for Ireland against Georgia
Brighton clubmates Shane Duffy (left) and Aaron Connolly can play a big roll for Ireland against Georgia

The two Brighton boys will be very much in Mick McCarthy's thoughts as he gets his team ready for tomorrow's qualifier in Georgia.

He has two big calls to make but I think Mick has to trust Shane Duffy if he says he's fit to play, and he should not be afraid to take a risk with Aaron Connolly and maybe put him into the side.

Putting a 19-year-old uncapped player into the team for a huge qualifier away from home is a big call to make, and Mick has other, older and more experienced players available.

But why wait and see? Connolly scored twice against Spurs last week and if he has trained well this week and is on a high, the temptation for Mick is to play him.

It's similar to when Robbie Keane was starting out with Ireland when he was only 17. He had that freedom, that carefree way of playing where you have no worries and you don't think about the big, dirty defenders who will just kick you. You go and play the way you played on the street with a spirit to go and win the game for your team. And that's what Connolly has.

It's difficult for Mick to have these tough away games and Georgia have clever players, the game can be slower, and you need to be very smart. So maybe the manager won't start him, but he might look for a boost of energy later on.

Although I don't see it as a risk to play Connolly: he has enough players around him who could bring him along during the game, he would add something different to the team - more energy, more youth.

He is in form and doing well, I know it's one game in the Premier League, but he is on a high. If it doesn't work out, then that's ok and he will go again.

Sometimes with Ireland we wait and wait, then wait until a player has dropped down the leagues and you lose the chance.

If we have young players in Premier League squads, sometimes you have to give them a chance, like Wales did when they threw in the likes of Harry Wilson, and they have gone on to become senior internationals. So maybe we should take a risk sometimes.

It can be dangerous for the team overall if a defender starts a game when he's not fully fit, and we know that Shane had a serious calf injury.

The older you get as a footballer, the more you get to know your own body. You know when you are fit or not, you are probably more honest with yourself, you say 'I would love to play in this game but I am really struggling'.

If Shane feels he is fit enough to play, he will play. Mick will have enough of a relationship with Shane to trust him.

Shane has played enough games to know that you can't go into a match like this only feeling 90 per cent. You have to be fully fit, you need to be able to make the runs, to jump and twist. It's not about bravado.

We know what Shane can do. If he says he's fit then you have to believe him and back him. He is our best defender and if he says he can play, Mick will trust him.

Shane trained with Brighton earlier this week and has been running, so once he has no reaction to the flight over last night, he'll be good to go.

I played with knocks but never with a real injury. I remember one time with Ireland I got injured in training the day before the international. I played and was ok, but the following Saturday with my club it flared up and I had to come off at half time. Maybe it was just the adrenaline at the time in the Ireland camp that allowed me to play.

You can't just think about yourself as a player in those cases, because if you're not fully right you are not only letting the manager down, you are letting the fans and the other players down. If you go out and make a mistake, that's down to your injury when you said you were fine, but knew in your head you weren't fully fit.

If Brighton had a major issue they would not have let him travel, but they know Shane and they feel he's ok. They pay his wages so he has to be honest with them although you can understand his desire to be on the plane.

As a footballer, you want to play at the highest level and when you aren't playing European football with your club, international football gives you the buzz that other players get from the Champions League, and it's great to see Shane's dedication in coming over.

We have a chance here in the group and if we don't follow it up with a win the pressure comes back on us.

It's a game we can win. When I saw Georgia in Dublin they didn't look as good as they used to be. They lacked that bit of arrogance and stubbornness they always had before. They were overrun by Ireland in Dublin as we had more energy and if we can replicate that on the pitch we can beat them.

If we close them down and don't give them time to play, we are a better team than them and we should win the match.

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