The end of the any domestic season brings with it it’s own range of emotions. Joy, excitiment, nervousness and despair. For Richard Dunne this point in time is all about one thing. Looking ahead.
Sitting in the lush surroundings of the 3 mobile head office in Dublin, Dunne has the look of a man who is finished waiting around. All he want to do is play football.
Since he took that crunching fall against Manchester City in early February Dunne has been forced to sit on the sidelines and watch his Aston Villa teammates be sucked into a relegation battle, one that they are far from certain to escape from.
A fractured right shoulder has meant Dunne can only sit and suffer. You ask where he feel things have gone wrong for Villa and the answer is up front.
“To be fair it’s been very hard. We have sold our best players at the end of each season so it’s tough for any manager to come in and build a squad when that happens.
“We have had to rely on the young lads at the club,and while they have done well it’s tough on them to have such expectations put on them.”
Dunne also admits that the loss of key players, including Ireland teammate Robbie Keane who returned to LA Galaxy after a short loan spell with Villa, hasn’t helped the club.
“Robbie was a leader when he was at the club. He was the one who scored all the goals. On top of that Darren Bent got injured, I got injured as did James Collins, along with Stiliyan having his illness to deal with, so it’s been tough”
While his club’s battle with the drop has been tough to watch, Dunne has had plenty to keep him occupied, with the intense rehabilitation of his shoulder to ready himself for domestic and international battles in the weeks ahead.
You ask that when he knew that he had done damage to his shoulder did the prospect of not making Euro 2012 pop into his mind, even for a fleeting second?
“The only think I remember was that my shoulder was killing me, nothing else”, Dunne says with a cheeky smile. “I initially thought that I had injured my neck and ribs.”
The process for Dunne to get back to 100% fitness ahead of the European Championships has been a relatively smooth one as the defender explains.
“From the moment that it happened I knew that I would be out for twelve weeks. I had everything explained to me and the timeline for the injury has gone according to plan.
“I have a pad on the shoulder now and while I’m not allowed have any contact in training at the moment, the ideal thing would be for me to run into a wall just to test it out. Basically I need someone to run up behind me and smack me to know that it’s alright.”
While Dunne is some way short of match fitness the centre half remains fully confident that he will be back to his best when Ireland lineup to face Croatia in the Euros in June.
“Even if I don’t make it back for the end of the season Aston Villa have said that they will put on a few games for me if I need them when the season ends.
“I have essentially done a pre season since I have been injured. We (Ireland) also have a few friendlies before the Euros which I hope to be involved in.”
Having watched the recent Champions League semi-finals and having witnessed Chelsea knock out most of the Spanish team that Ireland will face in June, does Dunne think that Ireland should replicate the Chelsea blueprint that saw them defeat Barcelona?
“I’m not sure if that way is a game plan. You set up that way out of necessity because you know that they will have so much possession.
“Chelsea were outstanding defensively over the two legs and we know that will be a basic requirement when we play Spain. We won’t have the ball for too long so when we do we will have to make the most of it.
Having been a rock at the heart of Ireland’s defence for so many years now, and having not seen any action in the 2002 World Cup does Dunne see Poland/Ukraine as his international swansong?
“It was a good and a frustrating experience in 2002. It was great to be involved at a World Cup but obviously I wanted to play so that was tough.
“I’m sure there will be guys going this year that won’t see any game time. All I can tell them is to enjoy the experience because it’s am amazing experience.
“At the moment I haven’t thought beyond the Euros. Two years is a long time away. It will be a tough call. We are just starting to qualify for tournaments so do I really want to walk away?”
All Ireland fans can only hope that Dunne continues to be the cornerstone that the Irish defence and team as a whole has been built on for years to come.