PAUL MCGRATH IS adamant that Ireland can’t afford to go into this summer’s European championships without Richard Dunne and says he would include the defender even if he wasn’t fully fit.
Dunne has been out of action since February after a collision with Manchester City goalkeeper left him with a broken collarbone and the 32-year-old faces a race against time to recover for the opening Group C game against Croatia on June 10.
The Dubliner’s inspirational performance away to Russia during the qualifiers was compared to McGrath’s displays in green at World Cup ’94 and at the launch of the second annual John Giles Foundation ‘Walk of Dreams’ at Lansdowne Road yesterday, the former Aston Villa man was emphasising just how important he feels Dunne is to Giovanni Trapattoni’s side.
“I don’t think he can be (at the peak of his powers for Euro 2012) with so few games but it depends on how much training he will get to do,” said McGrath.
If Richard Dunne was 80% fit, I’d bring him because he’s been the inspiration that has got us to the Euros.
“He’s a leader and I think people look up to him. When you see a man that size standing next to you, you want to go out and play with him.
“He’s as brave as a lion as he showed in the Russian game when his face got slammed into the ground and we need him there.”
Dunne dispossess Russia’s Aleksei Berezutskiy last September. Credit: INPHO/Donall Farmer
Another player McGrath would like to see make the 23-man squad is James McClean. The Sunderland youngster has been a revelation since Martin O’Neill took over in December and although Trap is likely to be conservative in his selection, a place should be made available for the Derry native.
“I think he does (bring something different). He definitely needs to be looked at. I’ve watched him playing with Sunderland and I think he’s different class. There’s nothing that seems to faze him, he’s one of those laid-back characters,” he said.
“If I was Trapattoni I would definitely have him. The one worry you would have is would do you drop? Who would be the man to lose his place because of that? And I wouldn’t know who that would be but I would definitely be bringing James along.”
He’s a big boy, his control with the football, his crossing of the football, his speed, his strength, his size, he seems to have it all. How he was missed when he was younger I don’t know but he seems to have it all going for him.”
52-year-old McGrath, who has 83 senior international caps and played in Ireland’s first three major tournament appearances, has insisted that progression from Group C is a real possibility despite many pundits predicting an early exit.
“Without a doubt I think they can get out of the group because if you look at the players we have like Robbie Keane and one of the best goalkeepers in the world in Shay Given. We have (Glenn) Whelan and (Keith) Andrews in midfield who will chase ball and will win it back for us,” he added.
“I am hoping that we’ll go out there and people will say we’re going to finish bottom of the group because I don’t think we are. That’s a lovely feeling to go out there and surprise a few people, including Spain.”