Richard Dunne has announced his retirement from international football after representing Ireland at senior level for the past 14 years, which includes 80 caps and eight goals.
Dunne, now 34, has been pivotal to the success of the Irish team since making his debut in 2000 during a friendly match with Greece. With the Irish national team going through a transitional faze at the moment, is this the beginning of some major changes in the Irish set up?
There is no doubting that Dunne is still a top defender but it’s understandable that he wants to retire and focus on his club career. He was one of QPR’s most important players last season helping them secure promotion to the Premier League.
If Dunne had chosen to play on, it is almost certain that he would have been part of Martin O’Neill’s plans for Ireland’s Euro 2016 campaign but now that he is gone they must find a suitable replacement.
Ireland has always been able to produce some truly gifted defenders in the past with the likes of Steve Staunton, David O’Leary and Paul McGrath to name a few. The way our national team has set up in the past has meant that a strong back four has always been imperative.
So with Dunne now retired and John O’Shea possibly coming to the end of his own international career, Martin O’Neill will need new players to step up to the mantle. Players like Seamus Coleman and Marc Wilson have made tremendous improvements over the last number of seasons and when they are fully fit would be certain starters.
But after that it’s hard to pick out a truly top class defender. Ciaran Clark was seen to have plenty of potential a number of years ago but has failed to live up to it as of yet. Then there are the likes of Stephen Ward, Paul McShane and Darren O’Dea who have played multiple times for Ireland but have never made a significant positive impact in the green jersey.
We have some young players now coming through who have a chance to make names for themselves. Greg Cunningham, Shane Duffy, Matt Doherty and Carl McHugh have all been plying their trade in the lower tiers of English football for a couple of years now and are still young enough to make a breakthrough in the near future.
O’Neill is going to have an unenviable job in trying to replace Dunne, who will go down as an Irish footballing legend. He is leaving a huge void in the Irish defence and it’s tough to see who would be good enough to fill it.
Ireland will begin their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign in September away to Georgia so there isn’t much time for the Irish hopefuls to impress. So tell us Pundits, who do you think will start at the back for Ireland against Georgia?
Peter Lee, Pundit Arena.