Saturday 7 December 2019

'I was a bit frenzied, maybe the match made me like that'

'Savage aggression' of '09 final to blame for costly red card

Tipperary's Benny Dunne is sent off in the 2009 All-Ireland final
Tipperary's Benny Dunne is sent off in the 2009 All-Ireland final

Jackie Cahill

HE was used to the role by now but this time, Benny Dunne didn't feel right. There was sulphur in the air and Dunne could smell it.

He'd come on as a substitute in all of Tipperary's previous Championship games in 2009 but there was something different against Kilkenny on that fateful first Sunday in September.

He was brought on in the 46th minute, for Toomevara clubmate John O'Brien.

"I remember it vividly, I remember every bit of it," Dunne says. "The game was physical, I came into the game, I was a bit frenzied.

"I can remember when I got onto the pitch and I wasn't myself. I came on in all the games during that year - cool, calm, collected attitude."

When Dunne was introduce, Tipp were looking good to end an eight-year All-Ireland famine.

But they would play the last 20 minutes with 14 men after Dunne was sent off by referee Diarmuid Kirwan for a wild pull on Tommy Walsh, as the pair contested Brendan Maher's line ball.

He uses the word "frenzied" again in conversation, "rushed" too. Eager to impress no doubt and anxious to help steer the ship safely to harbour.

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Disappointed

Dunne (34) adds: "That disappointed me a bit but maybe the match itself made me like that.

"I was looking in and we all know in the first half that the aggression in the tackle was savage, the intensity was borderline.

"We all know there was some frontal challenges and stuff like that. The tackling was very aggressive and at high intensity.

"I'm not saying it was dirty or anything like that but it was in-your-face stuff.

"Maybe I was looking in getting frenzied myself. Looking back that's probably what happened. One of those things."

What happened next would have broken lesser men.

"It was a line ball," he remembers. "Coming up just above head height. Obviously I reacted to something that happened."

What was that?

"It was something," he smiles. "I'll leave that to your observation but it wasn't as if I turned around and tried to take his head off for absolutely no reason.

"Let's be fair, it mightn't have been much but it was enough to allow the red mist to come down.

"Pull it up yourself when you go home and look at it in super-slow motion - you can see it for yourself. Something happened that allowed me to turn and lash out."

Tipperary lost down the home stretch as Henry Shefflin converted a disputed penalty and Martin Comerford added a killer second goal.

Dunne felt alone but comfort was at hand from those who knew him best.

He recalls: "The lads in the dressing-room, I'll take that to the grave with me.

"The lads stood by me. I still remember (Seamus) Callanan sitting with his arm around me in the dressing-room after the match."

Declan Fanning stood up and told Dunne that they were all in it together. Tommy Dunne had made his way down from the stand to the dressing-room and pulled his brother to one side.

The next few weeks were particularly difficult but Dunne vowed to make amends.

He didn't want to be remembered as the man who was sent off in an All-Ireland final and 12 months later, he would come off the bench to shoot a spine-tingling long-range point as Tipp made amends.

Dunne says: "Liam (Sheedy) would have used the word redemption.

"But take my incident totally out of it and collectively, it was brilliant for us all.

"We had a couple of good years' momentum behind us and we needed to win an All-Ireland in 2010.

"And it's why I feel we need to win the All-Ireland on Saturday as well. It's just not good enough any more to come second in an All-Ireland final.

"I think they'll bring a good performance but it will have to be five, eight or ten per cent better than the last day."

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