My back feels better with not as many knives in it - Dunne
Published 12/07/2016 | 02:30
If Liam Dunne were sensitive to criticism, he would long since have handed in the Wexford manager's bib, skipped on to the terraces and taken to life as a spectator.
Instead, he battles on, still believing in Wexford hurling and in his own ability to get the best from the available talent.
Results like last Saturday's win over Cork in the qualifier clash in Thurles make it all worthwhile and now Dunne is back in planning mode for next Sunday week's All-Ireland quarter-final date with Waterford.
"There were plenty knives in my back after we lost to Dublin but, in fairness to the lads, they took some of them out by beating Offaly. And they pulled some more out last Saturday. My back is feeling a lot better," said Dunne.
Few would have predicted before the start of the championship that Wexford would reach the last six in the All-Ireland race, whereas Dublin, Cork and Limerick did not.
It has been achieved with a new-look squad that displayed a high level of maturity as they calmly worked their way through various problems against Cork last Saturday.
"This is all about the players. They deserve huge credit for the way they have stuck together. It's not easy, especially when you're being criticised, but then any dog can bark. Hopefully, the ones who were barking loudest have been muzzled for another fortnight at least.
"The great thing is that the players believe in themselves and in their talents and when they come close to their best, they show exactly how good they are," said Dunne.
The rate of change has been phenomenal in Wexford this season.
Between retirements, injuries and withdrawals, Dunne has lost around 15 players in the last year, testing already limited resources to the limit of their endurance.
"The pace of transition is there for all to see. I doubt very much if any other county has gone through it. It's a credit to the lads we have now that they have taken us this far. And there's a lot more to come if they keep improving as they can, " said Dunne.
The heavy defeat by Dublin in the Leinster quarter-final in late May looked as if it might wreck Wexford's season but instead they are in the All-Ireland quarter-finals for the second time in three years.
"We were all very disappointed with the Dublin game but we felt there was a lot more there.
"We had a good run into the Offaly game and played well, even if we lost a perfectly good goal. I said to the umpires before last Saturday's game, 'Give us a break today' but luckily we managed to win without scoring any goals," said Dunne.
He was surprised by the extent of Tipperary's win in Sunday's Munster final but does not agree with those who hold that the wipe-out will have inflicted serious psychological damage on Waterford.
"No, it won't. I'd prefer to be playing a team that had lost by a few points. There will be an awful lot of hurt in Waterford and we could feel the backlash. We''ll need to be ready for it.
"Waterford have been hurling very well over the past 18 months so one poor day doesn't make them a bad team or make their system wrong. We all know well that Derek McGrath will get them right back on track," said Dunne.
Wexford beat Waterford in their last championship clash in the 2014 qualifiers while the Déise beat Dunne's men by a point in this year's Allianz League quarter-final.