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 – 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.
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.
Tony Dunne – Manchester United & Ireland Statistics
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