Sunday 18 August 2019

Model use sweeper system positively, insists Dempsey

Tony Dempsey. Photo: Sportsfile
Tony Dempsey. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

They don't share a border and there's no real recent history between them, but Wexford and Tipperary share one of the great dormant rivalries in hurling, stemming from the four All-Irelands they contested in the 1960s.

Wexford won two (1960 and '68), and Tipperary matched them (1962 and '65) in a decade when they were dominant.

They clashed in the All-Ireland semi-finals in 1997 and 2001, both of which Tipperary won, while Wexford took the spoils in a quarter-final meeting in 2007, bringing an end to Michael 'Babs' Keating's second term in charge of the Premier.

That 2001 game went to a replay and was shrouded in controversy when Tipp's Brian O'Meara and Wexford's Liam Dunne clashed and were sent off. O'Meara's subsequent four-week ban ruled him out of the All-Ireland final against Galway. O'Meara's appeal fell on deaf ears despite pleas from Dunne and then-Wexford manager Tony Dempsey, who both attended in person.

"It was handbags, two guys staking a claim to their territory," recalled Dempsey (below). "At the very least it was a bad sending-off. I went up with Liam, we both made a case. Since we weren't in the All-Ireland, we obviously would have loved for Brian to be in it.

"Liam played the game tough, but he was a sportsman. He made a statement one time that if he was playing on John Power he would never be put off because Power and himself used to pull together at the same time, so there was no risk really!"

Dempsey's recollection of the drawn game centres on a free awarded with less than a minute remaining; it wasn't taken with the game brought to a close and the sides on level terms.

"There were about 40 seconds left. Larry O'Gorman fell to the ground, or something happened. And the ref said, 'Game over'. Fitzy (Damien Fitzhenry) had come out of the goal to take the free so we weren't allowed take it. Very few noticed it because I didn't make a fuss about it, I didn't see any point but if Fitzy had scored that, we'd have won the game."

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Dempsey, who has managed Wexford hurling and football teams at every level, is adamant the Model County's sweeper system is a "positive" for Wexford.

"It's not a negative thing. You have guys like Matthew O'Hanlon, Diarmuid O'Keeffe, Shaun Murphy, those guys, because Davy [Fitzgerald] insists on cover, they go forward, they don't stand back.

Armchair "It's not like football where there is a wall in front of the goals. They don't sit back in an armchair there. If a fella gets a ball he's prepared to go forward. It would be very interesting to look at the stats on our half-back line."

Dempsey credits Fitzgerald for instilling belief in Wexford and also paid tribute to the role of county board chairman Derek Kent in facilitating progress.

"In the past, beating Kilkenny would be the ultimate achievement. These guys are not thinking like that. They're not satisfied with a Leinster title any more. They've beaten every team in Ireland over the last three years and that's huge.

"The big thing about this team is that there has been a different fella popping up every day but Lee Chin was dominant in the last couple of games, Liam Ryan too. That will be a battle with Seamus Callanan.

"I had a lot of those players at U-21 level and we were beaten in two Leinster finals by a very good Dublin team, I know them well and I've been chatting with some of them. They will definitely die with their boots on, win or lose. We can be certain of that," Dempsey predicted.

Irish Independent

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