EX-IRELAND player Richard Dunne was well known for his displays in an Irish jersey, but not many know that former Manchester City man is also an avid lover of horse racing.
Dunne, who won 80 caps for the Republic of Ireland and made almost 300 appearances for Manchester City in the Premier League spoke on behalf of Irish Grand National sponsors Boylesports about the big race and being teammates with the likes of Robbie Fowler and Steve McManaman ahead of Easter Monday's Grand National
Do you have any top tips for the Irish National this year? Which horses have the best chances?
“There was a fairytale in the Boyle Sports Grand National last weekend, with amateur rider Sam Waley-Cohen winning on his final career ride and there would be another if Max Flamingo - who has a great chance - can win. He is homebred by a local sheep farmer who has just six horses in training and it would be a great story this Easter.
— FAIreland ⚽️🇮🇪 (@FAIreland) September 6, 2013
Favourite memories of the Irish National?
“I think last year’s winner, Freewheelin Dylan was a great day, the first ever 150/1-shot to win the big race - it just goes to show that if you line up you have as good a chance of winning as anybody.”
What’s your tip for the race?
“As a footballer, I have to side with Full Time Score. He has won on both his career starts at Fairyhouse and creeps in at the bottom of the weights. Henry de Bromhead is a great trainer, too.”
How much of a hero is AP McCoy?
“AP is probably better known in Ireland than most of us footballers - what he achieved in his career, being a champion for two consecutive decades, is something you could only dream of.
“We may not see the likes of him again in National Hunt racing - he’s a legend in sport and in Ireland.”
Do you remember the buzz back home when Desert Orchid came to town?
“Even people with no interest in racing had heard of Desert Orchid. A stunning horse with an equally stunning career. To have a horse like Dessie winning the Irish Grand National was brilliant for the race and for Ireland. I remember as a child everybody was tuned into the race in anticipation and they all had a few quid on that day.”
Ireland have produced the best jockeys in the world including AP McCoy, Ruby Walsh and Robbie Power to name but a few... How much of a fan of these sportsmen are you and in what regard do you hold them?
"They're huge and hugely successful sportsmen who've done brilliantly. They bring a lot of joy to the Irish public. I think in terms of where they're held in Ireland, they're huge and people love them.
"The country is very proud of them and we've produced the best jockeys around for years and it's brilliant.
"It's almost the national sport in the country and it's a huge deal."
— Aston Villa (@AVFCOfficial) October 17, 2020
Who was the biggest racing nut during your playing days?
"When I was at City, Steven McManaman, Joey Barton and Robbie Fowler all loved it.
"They had their horses and took us to Cheltenham one year and they had their horses and literally didn't see them as they were chatting to every horse person around.
"They were going to see the horses. For me it was about the occasion, but for them it was a serious thing and they were constantly talking and thinking about it."
Why don’t footballers go to the racing anymore?
"I don't know whether there's enough time in the day. The intensity has gone up and a day at the races genuinely coincides with a few beers.
"There are a lot of cameras and people around and it's just not worth it for the players to get caught."
You have sustained some injuries in your career but nothing like that of a jockey. Are they the toughest sportsmen and could you do their job?
It's quite incredible that AP for example has broken just about every bone in his body during his career, yet managed to compete at the highest level for more than two decades. They are fearless, and I've seen football careers ended after far less. I certainly couldn't do it - these jumps jockeys are as tough as they come.