Who is Ireland’s best ever centre back?

“He [Dunne] was fantastic. I thank God that we had Richard in this game. He sacrificed himself because he went back on to the pitch with four stitches. He understood the need to stay on the pitch.” Trappatoni

Richard Dunne has turned into one of, if not Ireland’s most important and influential players. Dunne, now aged 31 from Tallaght put in what has been described as the one of the best performances in an Irish jersey by a centre back. The Aston Villa defender along with Shay Given single handily kept the Russians out and secured what could be a crucial point for Trappatoni’s men.

Since making his debut eleven years ago, Dunne has turned from an overweight clumsy defender into Ireland’s savour and one of the best centre half we have ever had. Battered and bloodied, the Tallaght born defender displayed heroics on Tuesday and his performance had everybody talking including Ireland legend Paul McGrath. “The best performance I have seen from any Irish centre half and that includes myself,”

Despite suffering a nasty looking facial injury, Dunne continued to frustrate and deny the home side and once again show his true value to Ireland. Having made his debut in 2000 against Greece in a friendly, Dunne has played 67 times for the Republic and has scored his fair share of goals as well. He did travel to the 2002 World Cup but couldn’t break into the starting eleven under Mick McCarthy and again he found himself in the shadows under the management of Brian Kerr. Nowadays though he is the first name on the team sheet along with Given and Keane. Following the appointment of Giovanni Trappatoni, Dunne cemented his place as Ireland’s top defender. The former Man City centre back has not only received buckets of praise here at home, he has been the subject of plenty of plaudits in England. Included in the PFA team of the year in 2010, Dunne has established himself as one of the top centre backs in the Premier League and is arguably one of the finest centre backs to don the green Irish jersey.

Steve Staunton was no doubt a fantastic servant to Ireland. He played over 100 times for the Republic and had a successful career, like Dunne in England. He played in the 1990 and 1994 World Cup and played all of Ireland’s games at left back. He also appeared for Ireland in South Korea during the 2002 World Cup and he holds the record for as the only Irish player to appear in all 13 of our World Cup games.

Paul McGrath is widely recognised to be one of the best player’s to ever play for Ireland. Despite his off field problems and injury problems, McGrath was a tough tackler who like Dunne, gave his all to the cause and was a no nonsense centre back. He was often regarded as one of Ireland’s most influential players during the Jack Charlton glory days. He was a major part of the break through of the Irish team in the late 80s, early 90s. During the 1994 World Cup he played in a defensive midfielder role and despite a painful shoulder virus he stared for Ireland. In the opening game of the World Cup, he put in an astonishing defensive display as Ireland beat pre-tournament favourites Italy thanks to Ray Houghton’s goal. McGrath like Dunne in Moscow singly handily denied the Italians and one iconic moment was when he took a Roberto Baggio shot straight to the face. He is one of the best players to ever pull on a green jersey.
Ireland have certainly not been short of top centre halves in recent times.

Another defender who stared for club and country was Kenny Cunnigham. The Home Farm youth player captained the Republic in the 2002 World Cup and lead the side to the quarter finals. He made 72 appearances for Ireland and was a leader on the pitch. “From day one he has been a great influence. “He is a talker on the pitch, he organises the players around him, and off the pitch he is a calm influence. Mick McCarthy

David O’Leary was another leading centre back for Ireland and he is most famous for scoring the winning penalty during the 1990 World Cup against Romania. He made 68 appearances for Ireland but was frozen out of the set up for periods.

Have your say on who is Ireland’s best ever centre back, tweet me @ryanbaileysport with your nomination and why and use the poll below… (Will you enter the html code below and the poll will appear)

The results will be posted here in the next few days…

Here is a quick reminder of some of Dunne’s heroics on Tuesday in Moscow:

By Ryan Bailey, @ryanbaileysport


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