June 20, 2024

Tony Dunne


Irish Footballers that Played for Manchester United – Tony Dunne

Tony Dunne – Introduction

Tony Dunne, a fullback, from Dublin in the Republic of Ireland was born on 24 July 1941. As a schoolboy he played for Stella Maris and as an 18 year old he helped League of Ireland football club Shelbourne to win the FAI Cup in 1960. Manchester United’s manager Matt Busby was looking to rebuild the Old Trafford outfit after the Munich air crash. Tony Dunne fitted the bill and Busby paid £5,000 to bring the gifted and speedy fullback to Manchester.

Tony Dunne & Manchester United

Tony Dunne made his debut for Manchester United on 15 October 1960 against Burnley in the First Division. It was not a happy debut as United lost 5-3 at Turf Moor. This was one of only four first team appearances that Dunne made in the 1960/61 season.

Although Busby was not keen to rush the young Dubliner’s progress, an injury to fellow Irishman, Noel Cantwell, in November 1961 provided Tony Dunne with an opportunity of a prolonged string of appearances. That season he made 35 appearances. He made 28 appearances in the 1962/63 including the FA Cup final at Wembley Stadium against Leicester City. Dunne was one part of a trio of Irishmen to collect a winners medal that day. United’s captain, Noel Cantwell and Johnny Giles were the other two.

Tony Dunne’s ability to play at right-full or left-full meant that that he was an automatic pick as United went in pursuit of the First Division title. The FA Cup was the first silverware won by United since Munich but Busby would not settle for that. He wanted European Cup football and that meant winning the League. In the 1964/65 season Matt Busby achieved his ambition, winning the title on goal difference, and ever-present Tony Dunne contributed significantly to this.

In the next season Tony Dunne scored his first goal for Manchester United against West Bromwich Albion on 4 May 1966 in a 3-3 draw in the League. His only other goal for United arrived 19 months later against Newcastle United and again it was in a drawn match in the League. Unfortunately for such a tremendous servant of Manchester United Tony Dunne never managed to score at Old Trafford in front of the United fans.

The 1967/68 season was to prove to be the highlight of Dunne’s career. He played in 49 matches that season including every one of the European Cup matches. His performances in Europe helped United to reach the 1968 European Cup Final against Portugal’s Benfica at Wembley Stadium. On 29 May he lined out with fellow Irishmen George Best and Shay Brennan as Matt Busby finally reached his Holy Grail by winning the European Cup. The Manchester phoenix had truly risen from the Munich ashes.

Following on from such a high the rest of Tony Dunne’s career proved to be something of an anticlimax. Matt Busby retired as Manchester United manager in 1969 and Dunne played under a succession of managers, Wilf McGuinness, Busby again, Frank O’Farrell, and Tommy Docherty. While Dunne continued to perform with admirable consistency United’s fortunes began to decline.

Following the appointment of Scotsman Docherty Dunne only played four more times for United. One of these, in his penultimate match, was the only occasion in 535 appearances in which he was a substitute. Tony Dunne played his last match for Manchester United on 17 February 1973 against Ipswich at Portman Road. He was let go on a free transfer to Bolton Wanderers at the start of the 1973/74 season. Dunne went on to make 170 appearances for Wanderers over five seasons. Some United fans have speculated that if Docherty had held on to the experienced Dunne then perhaps United might have avoided relegation to the Second Division in 1974.

Tony Dunne is in the top ten for all time appearances for Manchester United.

Manchester United Legend Bobby Charlton’s Views on Tony Dunne

In his autobiography had the following to say about Manchester United and Ireland fullback Tony Dunne:

“Tony Dunne was possibly the quickest defender I ever saw. His marking ability was brilliant, and I recall telling a journalist who had commented on Tony’s great form around the time we won the European Cup, ‘Well, you know he’s been the best left back in Europe for years. He goes like lightening.’ …he did have a kind of genius. He read an opponent so well that, with his speed, he could go out against any winger on earth confident of putting him in his pocket.”

Tony Dunne – Republic of Ireland Career

Tony Dunne made his debut for the Republic of Ireland on 8 April 1962 in a friendly match against Austria. Ireland lost 2-3 at Dalymount Park with Dunne’s United team mate, Noel Cantwell playing as a centre forward, scoring the first Irish goal. Unusually, Tony Dunne’s competitors for the Irish fullback berths were also his club competition in the form of Cantwell and Shay Brennan. For a player that made over 700 appearances for his clubs in England 33 caps for Ireland seems pitifully few. This may have had something to do with the following football quote attributed to Matt Busby in reference to the FAI after Dunne had come back injured following international duty with Ireland.

“They are running it like a Mickey Mouse club.
They can have the others but they can’t have you.”

He never managed to score a goal for Ireland however this is entirely consistent with his club career. Tony Dunne’s last game for Ireland was on 29 October 1975 against Turkey. This was the 1976 European Championship qualifier in which Don Givens scored all four goals in a famous 4-0 victory at Dalymount Park.

References :
Sir Bobby Charlton – My Manchester United Years – The Autobiography; Bobby Charlton with James Lawton (2007); Headline Publishing Group

Tony Dunne – Manchester United & Ireland Statistics

Tony Dunne was born on
24 July 1941 in Dublin
Playing Position
Joined Manchester United
Manchester United Debut
15 October 1960 V Burnley
Last Appearance for Man Utd
17 February 1973 V Ipswich Town
Left Manchester United
No. of Games Played for Utd
535 (1 as sub)
Goals scored for Manchester Utd
Honours Won by Tony Dunne at Man Utd
League Title 1965; 1967 : FA Cup 1963 : European cup 1968
Other Clubs
Shelbourne FC; Bolton Wanderers; Detroit Express
Republic of Ireland Caps
Goals scored for Ireland


Manchester United History – Irish Man Utd Players

Trevor Anderson – Harry Baird – Billy Behan – George Best – Jackie Blanchflower – Robbie Brady
Derek Brazil Tommy Breen – Shay Brennan – Ronnie Briggs – David Byrne – Noel Cantwell
Johnny Carey Joe Carolan – Roy Carroll – Tom Connell – Gerry Daly – Bernard Donaghy – Mal Donaghy
Tony Dunne Pat Dunne – Jonny Evans – Sonny Feehan – Darron Gibson – John Giles – Keith Gillespie
Don Givens Harry Gregg – Ashley Grimes – Mickey Hamill – David Healy – Denis Irwin
Tommy Jackson Michael Keane – Roy Keane – Paddy Kennedy – Davy Lyner – Mick Martin
David McCreery Noel McFarlane – Pat McGibbon – Chris McGrath – Paul McGrath – Sammy McIlroy
Sammy McMillan Walter McMillen – Liam Miller – Kevin Moran – Tommy Morrison – Phil Mulryne
Jimmy Nicholl Jimmy Nicholson – Liam O’Brien – John O’Shea – Patrick O’Connell – John Peden
James Robinson Paddy Roche – Jackie Scott – Tom Sloan – Frank Stapleton – Billy Toms
Anthony Whelan Liam Whelan – Norman Whiteside

Manchester United Blog – Manchester United Supporters Clubs


Liverpool History – Liverpool Irish Players – Liverpool Supporters Clubs
Glasgow Celtic History – Celtic’s Irish Players


Irish Footballers
Liam Brady – Damien Duff – Eamon Dunphy – Robbie Keane – Niall Quinn