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Richard Dunne battles for the ball against Estonia during the Estonia and Republic of Ireland Euro 2012 qualifier. Photo by: Jamie McDonald / Getty Images

Sports Digest: Richard Dunne thrilled with Euro success at the Aviva

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Richard Dunne battles for the ball against Estonia during the Estonia and Republic of Ireland Euro 2012 qualifier. Photo by: Jamie McDonald / Getty Images

Richard Dunne was delighted to put the smile back on Irish faces when the Aviva Stadium hosted a European Championship party on Tuesday night.

As the Green Army partied like its 1988 – Ireland’s last Euro appearance – Dunne was happy to act as host.

“That was for the whole country,” insisted Dunne, a decade after the last appearance in a major finals.

“We’ve all lived through the World Cup and European Championship experiences under Jack Charlton.

“They are the best times of your young life so if we can reproduce that again next summer for the country and for the people at home it will lift everybody and hopefully repair the country.

“That’s what it means for us, for my nieces and nephew who’ve never grown up with us qualifying and the atmosphere that goes with it. It’s going to be a great experience for them, for everybody, for my parents. Just to experience a major tournament again with Ireland in it.”

Dunne will savor the moment in Poland and the Ukraine next summer after watching the 2002 World Cup action from the Irish bench.

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“For me personally, to play in the European finals when they come around will be a dream come true,” said Dunne, a hero in Tallinn on Friday night and in the return leg on Tuesday.

“I have always wanted to play in a major finals with Ireland. We were almost there in Paris two years ago when everyone knows what happened.

“Apart from the World Cup, the European Championships is as high as you can play in, so to have the opportunity to play against the top sides in a competition, it would be a very proud moment for us all.”

Dunne has also denied that cash will be a motivation for the players, set to share half of the FAI’s $11 million windfall from Euro qualification which was 99.9% secured with a 4-0 win over Estonia in Tallinn on Friday.

The 32-year-old Aston Villa defender said, “We all make enough money at our clubs and playing for Ireland is an honor. It’s not about money.

“The whole country will benefit from it and the main thing is having the pride. Going out and playing in the finals is all that matters to the players.

“Footballers want to play in tournaments and this is a really big tournament. To go and represent Ireland in it is going to be something that money can’t buy.”

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