Euro 2016

Dunne eager to get started

These are the biggest games of all our lives, says Ireland defender

Richard Dunne: Feeling fit and confident for a tournament he has waited 10 years for

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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 defender was a member of Mick McCarthy's Republic of Ireland squad which travelled to the Far East for the 2002 World Cup finals, but did not get onto the field.

He has spent the decade since aching for another opportunity to represent his country on the big stage.

Dunne will finally get his chance when Giovanni Trapattoni's men open their Euro 2012 campaign against Croatia in Poznan on Sunday evening.

"I can't wait," he said. "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.

"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."

Confident

It has not been the easiest build-up for Dunne, having fractured his collarbone playing for Villa against former club Manchester City in February.

But he maintains he was always confident he would be fit in time and has been able to prove his fitness in games against Bosnia and Hungary.

Dunne added: "The club told me straight away how long the process would take. It was good to get 90 minutes 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."

The Ireland party landed in Poland having extended their unbeaten run to 14 games with a battling draw in Hungary.

Dunne said: "Hungary were very good, so it was a good test. It was important for us not to lose and not to get any injuries, and we came through that well.

"John O'Shea looked so good and like he had not missed anything, so it's good to know that next week, everyone is fit and raring to go."