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Richard Dunne cannot wait to lead his country at Euro 2012

Richard Dunne cannot wait to lead his country at Euro 2012

Richard Dunne cannot wait to lead his country at Euro 2012

Richard Dunne cannot wait to make up for lost time as he prepares to taste major tournament action for the first time.

The 32-year-old was part of the Ireland squad which travelled to the Far East for the 2002 World Cup finals, but did not feature as Mick McCarthy's men came within a whisker of the quarter-finals. He has since spent the best part of a decade aching for another opportunity to represent Ireland in a major competition.

The Aston Villa defender said: "I can't wait. They are the biggest games of all of our lives, probably. We are a week away. We have been preparing now for two and a bit weeks and we are just really keen to get going."

He continued: "I am really confident about how strong we are and if things go our way as far as luck is, we can definitely give everyone a test and make it a tough challenge for everyone else in the group."

Manager Giovanni Trapattoni suffered a major scare back in February when Dunne, whose form during qualifying was exemplary, fractured his collarbone playing for Villa against former club Manchester City.

However, as the nation held its breath, he was always confident he would be back in business in time to make the plane to Poland, and he has since proved his fitness against Bosnia-Herzegovina, a Tuscan Select XI and Hungary.

Dunne said: "The club told me straight away how long the process would take.

"It was good to get 90 minutes (against Hungary) and it means I go in with a bit more confidence.

"I have another week's training now as well, so I will be ready when it starts."

PA