Dunne sees novel county final as further evidence of Wexford progress

Despite his own club Oulart’s absence for the first time in 11 years Wexford manager looks on the positive side

Wexford’s Conor McDonald: was nominated for Young Player of the Year following an impressive summer campaign at both senior and U-21 level. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Wexford’s Conor McDonald: was nominated for Young Player of the Year following an impressive summer campaign at both senior and U-21 level. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

 
Wexford

But it’s a bittersweet occasion for county manager Liam Dunne whose club Oulart-The Ballagh will be absent on the big day for the first time in 11 years.

“It’s fantastic,” he says, “if you’re not from Oulart or The Ballagh! But from my point of view I can see the advantage of the stranglehold being loosened a bit and that bit of freshness that new teams can bring to the championship. It’s great for my job that clubs can see light at the end of the tunnel. It can only be good for hurling in the county.

“Oulart raised the bar over the years – there’s no doubt about that – and I don’t think that they’re a spent force or anything like it but it was bound to catch up with them. Still I won’t be surprised if they bounce back next year. But the standard has definitely evened off. You’ve got two new teams now.”

He’s pleased with the new vitality in the club game, as he felt it needed nurturing when he was appointed three years ago.

“When I took over one of the biggest problems I had was that guys weren’t allowed play with their clubs.

“I changed all that. I was alarmed that guys were on to me for the first 12 to 18 months asking was it alright if they played with their clubs. I couldn’t fathom that because I was happy to release players for all sorts of games. We don’t hold up fixtures and if anyone gets injured, they get injured.

“I would have emphasised with the players that when they go back to their clubs, to remember they’re with the county panel and that they’re representing a lot more when they go back to their club. They have to take leadership in their own clubs and push on other players.

Enthralling matches

Wexford’s championship run was the talk of the midsummer. Two enthralling matches against Clare ended on an unforgettable night in Wexford Park with the county’s first win over reigning All-Ireland champions in 10 years.

Dunne feels conflicted between the clear benefits of the team’s prolonged run in the championship and the fact that the demands on the players were so severe that they collapsed in the All-Ireland quarter-final against Limerick.

“We could have beaten Clare in Ennis but in a way I’m glad we didn’t because we wouldn’t have had that night in Wexford Park. But we’d 22 days to play four games, two with extra time, plus a Leinster under-21 final in the middle of it all.

“I think at a time when there’s so much talk about player welfare that sort of schedule needs to be looked at.

“I know we drew the Clare games but there should be a little bit of flexibility instead of the fixtures being set in stone.

“It was most pleasing for me that we managed to get down from the Clare game and back up to beat Waterford a week later but we’d nothing left by the time we played Limerick..

Very good

Dunne is also critical of the failure to include Wexford in the special development funding programme for counties, such as Offaly, Antrim and Laois.

“We were in Division One A and got put back into the lower division but when the funding was given out, we’re being told that we’re a higher level than them. There’s a crippling debt down here and we shouldn’t be forgotten about just because we had a good 20 days during the summer. They should look at it again. We need help.

“But I’m looking forward to 2015.”

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