Irish eyes are smiling as Dunne hails Manchester City's swoop for Barry
Another day at Manchester City, another multi-million pound signing joins the club and the transformation into serious contenders in the Barclays Premier League continues. For captain Richard Dunne (right), the capture of Gareth Barry from under the noses of Liverpool and Arsenal is a real show of intent from the club's owners, and manager Mark Hughes. Relaxing at Ireland's training camp this week, as news of Barry's signature played silently on a TV in the background, the City skipper was prepared to reflect briefly on the first transfer swoop of the summer. Dunne said: 'I heard he was in talks with the club. He is a really good player and a player the Aston Villa fans will really miss. 'It shows the pulling power of the club. It's the sort of signing the manager is looking for - players with Premier League experience who can push the squad on.' That over, Dunne pushed the conversation towards the more important business of the week, and Ireland's continued progress under Giovanni Trapattoni. A year on from the Italian coach's first game at Fulham, and Dunne is encouraged by the improvements made since the silver-haired maestro took charge of the fledgling squad which sweated round the hard pitches, golf courses and bars of the Algarve. Dunne missed the trip, joining up with the squad which faced Colombia days later at Craven Cottage. He can judge Ireland's progress against their performance a year later in the same venue, where even more youngsters played their part. But he only has to look at the Group Eight table to see Ireland are within touching distance of making the most significant advances, namely a return to the world stage in South Africa next summer. World Cup qualification is a driving force for Dunne who, seven years ago, was one of a handful of players Mick McCarthy took to Japan and South Korea, only to leave him stewing on bench duty. Dunne said: 'I would love to play in a World Cup, but 2002 has no bearing on me now. I would love to get there but if it turns out that we don't get there, it won't define my career. I won't look back and think: "What a waste of time." 'You can drive yourself on but it's about the team and everyone pulling the same way. I think we have 22 players here who want to be able to look back in 10 years' time at the 2010 World Cup and think: "Brilliant, we were there." 'The belief is there that we can qualify and there is a hunger to go on and win games. This is where we should be. It shouldn't be about preparing for tournaments in four years' time - it's about now. 'Having the younger lads in the team, you have to try and show the way, be relaxed and calm. The lads who came in have given the manager an option now within the squad. 'It's unusual for so many to come in at the same time but the main thing was for them to get a game, play well and get a decent group. They've all grown in confidence now and some of them might be disappointed if they're not in the team at the weekend. 'For guys like myself, Robbie Keane, Damien Duff and Kevin Kilbane, it's no use preparing for the next European Championships. It's about now and that's what we want. 'When the manager signed his two-year contract, he was focusing on this World Cup. His aim was to get to South Africa and he's translated that belief and ambition on to the team. This is our chance to do something good and everyone has responded really well. Dunne and dusted: City's skipper gets stuck in during the Republic of Ireland's recent 1-1 friendy draw with Nigeria at Craven Cottage 'If you're given an objective to qualify for a World Cup then great, but if you're asked to help a set of younger lads qualify for another tournament in four years' time, there's no incentive for the older lads. Hopefully, we'll qualify: if we don't then the younger ones will be better for the experience but the hope among us is that we will do it. 'Everyone really wants it, we're very close to achieving it and, whatever happens, we know that we have given everything to try and do it.' With Martin Petrov and Valeri Bojinov among the ranks at Eastlands, Dunne is well aware of the threat posed by Bulgaria on Saturday. And the home side, who are close to full strength after a year and a campaign ruined by injuries, spats and withdrawals, are far from out of the qualifiers. 'There has been a bit of banter between the lads at City,' the captain said. 'They're very good and Petrov, in particular, will be an important player. 'His ability on the ball makes him a real threat so hopefully we can contain him. He's a naturally fit player and he looks after himself well so as soon as he's able to run, he was always likely to come straight back into it. He'll be 100 per cent fit and a real danger. 'Bulgaria were really good the last time. They are the favourites - it's in their back yard and the pressure is on them to come at us and get the three points. For us, we know how difficult the game at Croker was so hopefully we can do our jobs and still be in pole position.'
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