With the European Championship in France approaching ever faster, Adam Murphy takes a look back at one of the best individual performances seen in a green shirt in recent times. It didn’t come in a major tournament, however, rather a cold September evening in Moscow in the Euro 2012 qualifiers.
Coming off the back of a disappointing 0-0 draw at home to Slovakia at Lansdowne Road, Giovanni Trapattoni’s men travelled to Moscow in the hope of getting a result. This was easier said than done considering how easy the Russians had it in the reverse fixture in Dublin, winning 3-2, a result which flattered Ireland.
The Irish were feeling the pressure right away and the hosts could have had the game wrapped up by half time, missing a whole host of chances, Richard Dunne’s first moment of magic came late in the first half when Yuri Zhirkov looked certain to score but for the defender’s intervention clearing his shot off the line. Russia went in at the break having had thirteen goal attempts to Ireland’s one.
Dunne continued as he left off in the second half by blocking another goal-bound shot from Kerzhakov. It didn’t stop there as the Dubliner seemed able to deal with whatever was thrown his way, making tackles and interceptions left, right and centre.
Then the moment that all who were watching will never forget. As Zhirkov came down the left wing, Dunne came in with the heavy challenge. With the two men sliding off the pitch, Dunne hit his face off the running track causing a nasty cut. The blood spilled on the shirt requiring Dunne to get a new one and as he came back on the pitch after receiving treatment the referee ordered him back off because the jersey had no number. This required the medical team to get artistic and a number five was drawn on his back with a marker.
The injury didn’t halt the Tallaght native blocking yet another shot on goal from the Russians. Eventually after a lot more home pressure, Ireland held out for quite the most unlikely of draws, In the end Russia had 26 attempts at goal compared to Ireland’s three. Richard Dunne was to thank for that draw, giving everything for the cause. That point helped the Irish eventually clinch a play-off spot in the group and reach Euro 2012 at the expense of Estonia.
If this type of fight and commitment is shown in France maybe we could see Ireland cause a shock and turn a few heads. It wouldn’t be the first time.