Monday 24 October 2016

'We can lie down and die or come back with a bit of fight'

Published 22/06/2015 | 02:30

Wexford manager Liam Dunne
Wexford manager Liam Dunne

Liam Dunne stands before us, his smile struggling for wattage under the dark weight of slaughter.

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He tries selling hope, but this can only be long-term now. This feels like Andy Dufresne just taking possession of the rock-hammer. The concrete is thick as it's ever been, freedom's still a pipe-dream.

Dunne's life has been spent chasing string-pieces of hope against the stripey kingdom, so this cuts him to the core. Just when Wexford reckoned they might have a puncher's chance against Kilkenny, they get this.

Losing by 24 points feels as if it deposits them right back at the bottom of the mountain.

It doesn't, of course. They're a small eternity better than they looked yesterday, but it's a moot point now if this season will grant them the opportunity to prove it.

"We came up here to win the game and, unfortunately, we're going home with our tails between our legs again," he sighs quietly. "No team will put you to the sword better than Kilkenny and they did it today. We expect a lot of ourselves but, obviously, some things weren't right. We missed something somewhere.

"We needed goals in the first half and we didn't get them."

But, worse, they got nothing. They didn't get a performance, they didn't get close to rescuing even a semblance of their pride. Instead there was a conspicuous white flag raised in the second half (lost by 2-18 to 0-6). Which was ugly.

"You could see that players heads dropped," acknowledges Dunne. "That was hugely disappointing. Mark (Fanning) was pucking out the ball and Kilkenny guys were catching them without them even being contested. That's just not good enough.

"To get a mauling like that. . . I just said to them, from looking on the line, subs and supporters, to be an actual player and to go through that, you know there's two ways you can go. You can lie down and die now or you can come back with a bit of fight. In fairness to Kilkenny, their top players were in top form today and when they hit the ground running, you're in trouble.

"I suppose any other teams in the draw will be hoping they draw Wexford now but, look, we just have to dust ourselves down now and get on with it."

Inevitably, he is asked about Jack Guiney and the story of a disciplined player.

"You want your best players all the time and the player in question has the potential to be one of the best players in Ireland, not just Wexford," says Dunne.

"Look, we set standards. It's up to a guy to do whatever he wants to do. But you're expecting 33 or 34 guys in a panel to row in the one way behind you. Guys have choices and, look, they're amateur players. If a guy wants to do it, he wants to do it.

"I want my best players available to me at all times, but no one man is bigger than the team. You have to treat everyone the same.

"Sometimes you have to make decisions and tough calls, but I'm just hoping that the short-term pain with that player will be a long-term gain for Wexford."

Was the door, perhaps, ajar for Guiney's return?

"Look the door would be open for Martin Storey to come in after today," he shrugs with a thin smile.

For Brian Cody, it was just business as he knows it. Brutal efficiency. The simple assertion of age-old qualities.

"The goals in the first half were crucial because they came against a strong wind," he tells us. "Look, I have no doubts about Wexford's quality. Today wasn't a great day for them on the scoreboard.

"But I thought they were very dangerous for a lot of the first-half and there's nobody going to look forward to playing Wexford in the qualifiers. I certainly think they're serious opposition."

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