Dunne - Ireland priceless
Manchester City captain Richard Dunne has hailed Stephen Ireland after his magnificent season.
By Chris Quinn
Last Updated: 28/04/09 11:26am
Manchester City defender Richard Dunne has labelled his fellow Irishman Stephen Ireland as 'priceless'.
City's captain has also revealed he thought Ireland should have won the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA) Player of the Year award and cannot believe he was not even in the top three for the Young Player of the Year gong.
Manchester United's Jonny Evans and Aston Villa duo Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young all finished ahead of Ireland, with the latter scooping the top prize.
But Dunne feels Ireland should have walked away with both awards after a season that has brought the box-to-box midfielder 13 goals.
"Stevie has been outstanding all season," Dunne told the Manchester Evening News.
"I don't think anyone can touch him for what he has done since August.
"I think for his age he has been sensational and could possibly be the best midfielder in the country at the moment. I just wish he played for his country too."
Ireland has not played for his nation since faking the death of a grandmother to get out of international duty after his girlfriend suffered a miscarriage.
Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni has admitted he would welcome the City midfielder back, but Ireland himself has said he is not ready to return yet.
Ireland nearly left the club in the summer, with Sunderland thought to have been close to sealing an £8million move, but that fell through and he has now established himself as arguably the best player in City's midfield.
"It is amazing to think he wasn't in the side at the start of the season and might have even left the club at one stage," says Dunne.
"But since he got into the team he has been man-of-the-match on countless occasions. That shows his determination and how much he wants to be part of the club moving forward.
"He is priceless. We could probably afford to buy any player in the world at the moment but you cannot put a price on him."
Dunne feels Ireland is a shining example to other City youngsters as he has shown that despite the array of riches at Mark Hughes' disposal, youth will always get its chance.
"He is a great example to others coming through the system at City.
"People will say the young lads might not get a chance because of the money the manager has to spend but there are plenty of them doing well in the side at the moment including Stevie, Nedum (Onouha), Micah (Richards) and Shaun (Wright-Phillips).
"They prove that if you work hard, try hard and make the most of your ability then you will become a star player at the club."