The Republic of Ireland will head into the European Qualifiers without one of the heroes of their UEFA EURO 2012 campaign after former captain Richard Dunne announced his international retirement.
The Dublin native, who has not featured under Martin O'Neill as he focused on his club career with Queens Park Rangers FC, has informed the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) that his time has come. "Retiring from international football has been an extremely difficult decision for me to make," the defender said in a statement issued by the FAI.
"I have represented Ireland since I was 15 years of age, and have thoroughly enjoyed all the highs and lows that have come with playing for my country. I will continue to support the team as they embark upon their new campaign under Martin O'Neill, and have every faith that they will qualify for France 2016."
Dunne, who turns 35 in September, won 80 senior caps in a career which began under Mick McCarthy in 2000. He made an early mark on the international stage when he impressed in 2002 FIFA World Cup qualifying, but for many it is a more recent performance that could linger longer in the memory.
He was at the heart of the Irish defence that withstood incredible pressure from Russia to earn a 0-0 draw in Moscow in a crucial UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier in 2011. Paul McGrath, whose own performance against Italy at the 1994 World Cup has gone down in folklore, said Dunne's display was "the best I have seen from any Irish centre half".
FAI CEO John Delaney today added: "Richard has been a tremendous servant to his country, and is truly a player for Ireland to be proud of. I will never forget his performance in Moscow, which was instrumental in winning us qualification for EURO 2012. On behalf of the association, I would like to wish him and his family the very best for the future."
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