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Richard Dunne Photo by: Google Images

Sports Digest: Ireland soccer team cautious but confident ahead of Estonia game

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Richard Dunne Photo by: Google Images

Ireland's Lionheart Richard Dunne has a habit of scoring against Estonia -- and he’s ready to do it again in Tallinn next month.

The big Aston Villa defender scored home and away in both the 2-0 wins over the Estonians during the 2002 World Cup qualifiers.

Dunne was on the mark again against Armenia last week and will be one of the favorites to open the scoring in the first leg of the playoffs in Tallinn on November 11.  The playoff will be decided at the Aviva in Dublin on Tuesday, November 15.

“It’s always nice to get a goal but I don’t care who scores or how we play so long as we win,” declared Dunne as the draw pitted Ireland against the lowest ranked of the eight teams going into next month’s games.

“I know people talk about us being more positive in the way we play, but I’d just like to see us qualify, end of story. Whether people like how we play or think it’s not exciting doesn’t really matter to us.

“Come next June, if we are through to the European Championships and playing in Poland or the Ukraine, people won’t care how we got there.”

Ireland suffered Paris heartache in the last World Cup playoffs, but Dunne feels they will be better equipped to cope with the pressure second time around.

“We’re more mature as a squad now, we have more experience,” insisted Dunne, a veteran in the current Irish set-up.

“Estonia will find us hard to beat and that’s the main thing. We are a stronger side now than we were going to Paris and we have more strength in reserve as well.

“It will be tough now in the play-off because we will be expected to win it but the main thing for us now is to prepare properly for it.”

Like Dunne, goalkeeper Shay Given believes Ireland have moved on from Paris and improved.

The Aston Villa star said, “I’ve always said that you don’t look back in football. It’s all about the next game and the next performance and we need two big performances against Estonia now.

“There’s a real belief in the squad that we can do it and that hasn’t wavered at all. Everyone should be excited about Estonia now.

“We’re in the playoffs and people need to enjoy that now. You can look at the negatives till the cows come home, but we have got to be upbeat and positive going into the November games.”

Meanwhile, LA Galaxy star Robbie Keane says he is on track to make the game in Tallinn.

The Ireland captain is back in Los Angeles and undergoing intensive treatment on his adductor muscle injury after watching Ireland’s win over Armenia from the bench.

Keane flew back to Los Angeles via Chicago on Wednesday of last week and immediately began his comeback bid after missing the win that sent Ireland into the Euro 2012 playoffs against Estonia.

“I am looking to be back for Ireland for the Euro playoff and back for the Galaxy in time for the MLS playoffs,” said Keane.

“There are massive games coming up for both my club and my country and I want to be involved in them as soon as possible.”

Now settled into life in America after his move from Spurs, Keane intends to move into a new house with wife Claudine and son Robert Junior in the near future.

“We’re very happy there and we are all enjoying it in LA,” added the Dubliner.

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