No-frills Liam Dunne urges Wexford boys to lose baggage

Kilkenny drubbing leaves manager looking for big improvement against Cork

Liam Dunne: “The blame comes back to me but there has to be consequences for players as well. We will be seeing the start of some fellas’ careers and the end of others’.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Liam Dunne: “The blame comes back to me but there has to be consequences for players as well. We will be seeing the start of some fellas’ careers and the end of others’.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Where do you go? You’re Liam Dunne, you’ve been Kilkennyed and the outside world can offer only one of three things to you – anger, pity or indifference. So what do you do? You have to fill the time till bedtime some way or other. But how?

“I didn’t watch The Sunday Game,” says Dunne. “I knew it was going to be all the same sort of thing – we got hammered by 24 points, Jack Guiney, all that stuff. I didn’t want to hear any of it from outsiders.

“All I did instead was I made myself the biggest pot of tea I could and I sat down and watched Game Of Thrones. I bet through a full series of it. That’s what I did. The dragon was out in it, just like it was out in Nowlan Park earlier in the day.”

Every team gets a mouthful of flames from Kilkenny sooner or later in modern hurling and Wexford have been cinders more than most. The sad thing about this one is that it didn’t feel any different to the other times.

Dunne felt he had his team in good shape going in and he thought they felt it too. But there was no sign on the pitch that they were about to reroute the arc of the counties’ recent histories.

Nobody pretended afterwards that Guiney would have made a difference. It wasn’t that sort of game. But there was no point ignoring the issue either. Dunne had had problems with Guiney before, dropping him off the panel two years ago for a similar off-piste offence. There was no real mystery to his exclusion this time around either – the only question was as to the effect it had, coming so close to the game.

Short-term pain

“Well, it didn’t help,” says Dunne. “He’s one of our potentially top players. We can’t afford to be missing anybody. We need everybody firing on all cylinders. But I’ve said it a couple of times – there’s short-term pain here for Jack and for Wexford but hopefully there will be long-term gain that comes out of it. For everyone.

“Look, we’ll soldier on. Wexford will continue without Liam Dunne. It will continue without Jack Guiney. The one thing I’ll say is that I hurled and soldiered with his father [Dave Guiney]. And his father didn’t have half the ability Jack has. But the very honest truth is that I’d rather have his father with me the way he was than have Jack with me the way he is.

“Because what his father didn’t have in ability, he gave his heart and soul to the cause. He gave it everything. At the moment, Jack hasn’t decided to do that, which is an awful shame for him and an awful shame for Wexford.

“Would it have made a difference on the day? No, it didn’t make any difference. Kilkenny were awesome, as I’ve said. But I hope it makes a difference in the long run so that young Wexford players coming in and trying to get a handle on what it takes to make it will see that you can’t just do what you like and get away with it. You can if you want, you always have a choice in life. But you will just have to step away from the group and do it.”

Moving on

Dunne doesn’t doubt he’ll see Guiney in a Wexford jersey again but for here and for now, they’re moving on. Cork are coming to Wexford Park tonight laden down with their own troubles. If his side have been able to wash the Kilkenny result right outta their hair, they’re no forlorn hope here. For the past fortnight, Dunne has made it all about stripping everything back.

“Maybe there’s only so much you can get into a pint glass. We regrouped on the Tuesday night. We didn’t train, we just met up and talked. We trained on Thursday, got together Friday and Sunday. And all through it, the message I was giving to the players was that we have to empty the suitcase. Travel light to the next game. Lose the baggage. We were concentrating on too many things and forgetting the basics. Travel Ryanair-style.

“We went into the game trying to get everything right, trying to cover every base. If you had asked myself or any of the players, were we ready for any eventuality, we’d have said yes. But obviously we weren’t. The bottom line is that the bucks stops with myself.”

By his reckoning, they’ve had a good fortnight. You can’t know these things for sure but he liked what he heard in the team meeting on the Tuesday night. The sheer embarrassment of being on the pitch for a 24-point beating could have his players ruined for the rest of the summer but he doesn’t think that’s their way.

Eight of the panel went out on the Wednesday night and scalded Offaly in the Leinster under-21 semi-final, including a flicks-n-tricks goal from Cathal Dunbar that went viral the next day (no greater currency at that age, of course, than a viral goal). They landed into training on Thursday night full of vim and Dunne reckons it was their best session of the year. He’ll find out tonight.

“My mother isn’t well at the moment and we all have to take turns minding her. I was up with her last Saturday night and I was there on my own with her. And the two local papers were there on the sideboard the whole time. The whole night, the temptation was to go and open them and have a look at them to see what they were giving out about. But I didn’t do it. I left the next day at 12 o’clock and I still hadn’t looked at them.

“I made a conscious decision that I have to focus on what I’m thinking and to go with my gut feeling. A response has to come from me as well as the team, I know that. The blame comes back to me but there has to be consequences for players as well. We will be seeing the start of some fellas’ careers and the end of others’.

Magnificent

“On the day, we were poor but Kilkenny were absolutely magnificent. We could bury our head in the sand but that’s not my job. My job is to get unity within the team and to give fellas their opportunity. But they have to take it.”

If they don’t, tonight could be his last walk on the line. This is his fourth season in charge – only Mao Tse-Cody is in the gig longer – but for all that they made progress in 2014, a short summer this time around will test local patience.

“Ah, I’m not stupid either. We’re after winning two Leinster under-21s in a row and we’re in the final again. So of course you have all the people out there now saying that JJ Doyle is the man. But they were the same people who were sticking the knife into JJ two years ago when they lost to Antrim. Keyboard clowns, I call them.”

Onwards then, to find out who the joke’s on.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.