Already aware that he was stepping in to fill the boots of injured captain Christophe Berra, he soon learned he was also following in the footsteps of heroes.
“I certainly didn’t know as much about Hearts’ history as I do now,” he said. “I’ve learned all about the players who went out to fight in the [First World]War. That’s given me a taste of what the club is all about and how passionate the fans are, which is brilliant. It gives you an extra little bit of motivation. You are playing for people who really care about the club.”
Joining the squad and staff at a showing of War of Two Halves which has been staged at Tynecastle throughout the Edinburgh Fringe and tells the story of McCrae’s Battalion, he says he has huge respect for the Gorgie club.
“I didn’t know what was going on at first. That was my first day and I thought: ‘These guys are mental’. But it was really brilliant an’d it gave me an insight into how important the history of this club is.
“I knew Hearts had a huge fanbase and the numbers at the games were brilliant. But I didn’t quite know deeply enough how vital the history of the club was. It really does give you an extra bit of motivation to give something back to the fans.
“All the players and staff were at the play. I think it was the first time a lot of them got an insight into the club’s history in such depth as well. It puts us all on the same wavelength. After we saw the show, we were talking amongst ourselves, saying: ‘Oh my god, I didn’t know the club went through something like that at that time.’
“It must have been unbelievably difficult. It puts things into perspective. We think we feel pressure. Well, those lads back then must have really felt pressure.”
The Irishman, who has joined from Burnley on a six-month loan deal, will make his debut at Rugby Park this afternoon, as the league leaders try to extend their unbeaten start to the season to eight games.
Joining John Souttar at the heart of the defence, he is determined to help minimise the pain of losing Berra for an extended period following his hamstring operation.
“They are big boots to fill,” Dunne added. “He has been such a leader to the lads and the club have really relied on him, so it will be tough. If I do the basics right and defend properly for the team, I’m sure I’ll be okay.”
Loaned out to Barrow and Accrington Stanley in the past, helping Accrington win League Two last season, Dunne is still very much part of Burnley’s long-term plans. But having just extended his contract with the Turf Moor side, he has travelled north of the Border looking for more first-team experience and says the fact that Aberdeen gave his parent club such a tough tie in the Europa League qualifiers means he is aware just how testing the spell in Scotland will be.
“I saw Aberdeen play Burnley and I think everyone was surprised how good a battle they gave Burnley. I think a lot of people maybe underestimated the standard.
“Looking at the league table, I saw how well Aberdeen have started but then I saw that Hearts have won every game pretty much and I could add up where Hearts are at this stage and I think they’re in a really good place.
“There have been a lot of big players, big moves and big managers coming up here and at this time there seems to be a lot of attention towards the league, but I think the standard over the last few years has maybe been underestimated.
“I’ve already seen the standard of the players in training and it’s very good.
“It’s competitive and there is so much for me to learn. At my age, that’s still what it’s about. I had a taste of winning last season. Winning the league with Accrington Stanley has really given me a feeling for it. I want to win games now.
“As well as my development being important, I’m really focused on winning games and to do it on this stage would be very significant for me.”