Sport Hurling

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Dunne's big-name mentors the key to Model resurgence

Published 25/07/2014 | 02:30

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Wexford manager Liam Dunne
Wexford manager Liam Dunne

Liam Dunne hasn't contacted the Vatican just yet, but if he felt the chief resident was willing and available then he would have no issue in making that call.

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"If I thought the Pope could bring this Wexford team further on then I would get him in," remarked Dunne in a Wexford GAA TV interview earlier this week.

It was Dunne's humorous take on a very serious matter for him – how to get the most out of a group players that have blazed such an impressive trail over the three weekends and pitch up to Semple Stadium on Sunday looking for a win that will take them back to Croke Park for the first time in six years.

Whatever has to be done, whoever has to be asked, Dunne has been willing to do it. Wexford's manager has never set himself up as a one-stop shop with all the answers.

Guest speakers and guest coaches have been commonplace for many years in the GAA and some interesting characters have addressed teams over the years.

In the wake of their 2006 Munster title success, the Cork squad waited with some suspense before Roy Keane appeared to sit in front of them and take questions and answers in an informal chat that lasted two and a half hours.

Last year three-time Major golf champion Padraig Harrington addressed the Dublin football squad.

In the past Armagh deployed the services of world-renowned kicking expert Dave Alred to help them in their quest for glory which culminated in the 2002 All-Ireand triumph.

With the Holy Father otherwise detained, the Wexford players have had to do with some interesting figures from different walks of life.

Recently Eamonn Sinnott, the general manager of Intel Ireland and a native of Wexford, gave a presentation to the squad that focused on matters outside the realm of tactics and physical preparation.

Leinster and Ireland rugby player Sean O'Brien has also become part of the wider backroom team and has also spoken to the players in recent weeks.

In the past, Dunne has drawn on Wexford native Gordon D'Arcy to address the squad.

Now O'Brien, from across the border in Carlow – where he assisted with their footballers during his recuperation from injury earlier in the year – is a visible presence on match day and at training.

Beyond that Dunne has open door to a vast range of expertise.

His official management team has Murty Dempsey and Tomas Codd as selectors and this year they have been joined by Ger Cush, the county's former full-back.

The Model County's 1996 All-Ireland-winning manager Liam Griffin (below) has never been too far from Dunne's shoulder since heading a committee in 2011 to find a replacement for Colm Bonnar.

Griffin regularly appears at training, is known to take a lead on some sessions and is on hand to impart wisdom and advice on a one-to-one basis.

But he still maintains a discreet distance in the background.

Wexford's 1996 All-Ireland-winning goalkeeper Damien Fitzhenry has also been invited in from time to time to work with the netminders.

Local athletics coach Paul Kinsella and former Irish national basketball coach and Waterford IT lecturer Gerry Fitzpatrick, who was involved in a similar capacity with Davy Fitzgerald in Waterford, look after the team's physical preparations.

One of the key cogs during Dunne's tenure has been Paudie Butler, the former national director of hurling and one of the most respected coaches in the game.

There were issues when Dunne made contact initially with Butler in early 2013 because Butler was an employee of the GAA, but that has since been cleared up.

Such diversity and expertise has helped a sleeping giant of hurling to make a welcome return to the mainstream.

Irish Independent

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