Sport Hurling

Wednesday 26 July 2017

Sudden impact

Tipp's Benny Dunne tells Colm Keys why he's content to play the role of Premier reserve -- for now

Although he hasn't started
a Championship game for
Tipperary since 2007 the
intensity of the modern
games means Benny
Dunne has plenty to offer
from the bench
Although he hasn't started a Championship game for Tipperary since 2007 the intensity of the modern games means Benny Dunne has plenty to offer from the bench

He should be impatient. He's entitled to be a little angry even. But Benny Dunne is neither.

He knows his place and understands his role -- in many ways he's the perfect squad member. For the last three seasons Tipperary's former captain has had to condition himself to a different approach to inter-county hurling -- that of impact substitute.

In 14 championship games under Liam Sheedy's management, Dunne didn't start once. That trend has continued in the current campaign. In fact it was the ill-fated 2007 All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Wexford, Babs Keating's last game in charge, when Dunne last made a starting team.

At 30 years of age, with 10 championship campaigns behind him, there are grounds for parking his life as an inter-county hurler and moving on.

But Dunne appreciates that, in the modern game, the role of the replacement has been elevated and games are often defined by how a lead is protected or chased down in the last 20 minutes.

"With the modern game, the five substitutes that come in, in championship in particular, are as important as the 15 guys that are starting," he figures.

"The intensity of the game is gone through the roof, in my opinion. Nowadays, from No 5 right through to 12, that's where the engine room is. To last 70 minutes in that kind of intensity, it's asking an awful lot. The guys that are asked to come in for 20 minutes, half an hour, whatever it is, their job is as important as the guys that are starting. That's the nature of the game."

This week he won't be holding his breath for a call from Declan Ryan telling him that the habit of the last three years is about to be broken.

Tipperary have troubles in a couple of defensive positions and, with Dunne well equipped to serve there, he is a viable option. With Toomevara, he is a central figure at the heart of their defence, a man who opponents strategise about.

"Given where I am playing in training I don't feel I'm going to be an option at the back, if I'm being honest," he says. "I think there are other options in the backline than moving myself back there.

"I wouldn't turn my nose up at it. I'd never close the book on starting a championship game. Any inter-county player's ambitions are to start a championship game. That's what you want to do. You don't know with injuries what comes up.

"I'd love to say that I'll be starting in a Munster final. It's unlikely. But I'll train my mind to hopefully make an impact when I do get in there."

conditioned

So, from the stands, Dunne will condition his mind to the positions where he is most likely to be introduced.

A broken bone in the wrist precluded him from much of the action last season, but otherwise Sheedy always saw him as the second or third man to parachute in. That hasn't changed much under Ryan.

"You have to train your mind to thinking that you are going to get in there and when you do you have to make an impact and finish the job off. When you are on the bench, study the game for the first 10 minutes, know what is going on in that position that you are likely to come on in," says Dunne.

"Know what the weakneses are, who is playing in that position, what the movement is like, study that for whatever time you are on the bench. You do spot things, you see things from early on. I think that is a strength in itself that you can spot that and try to make an impact."

He has fond personal memories of the last time Tipperary went into a Munster final against Waterford as All-Ireland champions in 2002.

It was his first championship start, having made appearances as a substitute in earlier rounds against Clare and Limerick, and his impact was quite telling as he hit 2-2 from half-forward on an otherwise disappointing day.

He has put the trauma of being sent off in the 2009 All-Ireland final behind him and his point in last year's rematch was singled out by Sheedy as one of the outstanding memories of the entire campaign.

In the nine years that passed he can't believe the sacrifices being made to remain an inter-county hurler now.

"My feeling is that you do it while you can, while you are at the top of your game and then you park it to one side and move on and do something else," he says.

Perhaps Dunne's decision to stay involved is influenced as much by the involvement of his brother Tommy as coach as the influence he knows he can have off the bench.

Tommy Dunne coached the 2007 All-Ireland winning minor team, the U-21s in 2010 and the Toomevara seniors, so his CV is well decorated.

"I got a feel for his coaching techniques. He's very good but there are contrasting styles, I would say, with Eamonn O'Shea," says Benny.

"That's not a bad thing. I would say it's a good thing. Change is always good. He gets a good reaction from the lads -- he pushes them hard but that's always good.

"He's a straight-down-the-line guy. What you see is what you get, and he's tough but he's fair. Where we are brothers and all that, it's a strictly professional set-up. We talk in camp when we need to talk and the same as with all the other players. Outside of that, it's just your own family stuff."

Irish Independent

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