Sunday 19 November 2017

Tommy Dunne on Kilkenny mauling in 2012: 'I took it really badly. I was low'

Former Tipp coach Tommy Dunne lost belief in his ability after 2012 Cats mauling but Dubs stint revitalised him

Tommy Dunne was revitalised by his coaching stint at Dublin
Tommy Dunne was revitalised by his coaching stint at Dublin

Jackie Cahill

The optics were poor, the fallout vicious, and Tommy Dunne suffered more than most. On the third Sunday of August 2012, Kilkenny inflicted an 18-point defeat on Tipperary in the All-Ireland hurling semi-final.

Tipp were ahead by a point at half-time and still slumped to their biggest Championship defeat since the 1800s.

Post-match debate centred on Lar Corbett and that infamous tête à tête with Tommy Walsh, as supporters looked for scapegoats.

Dunne, Tipperary's coach at the time, and manager Declan Ryan were collateral damage.

"We were very low after that," Dunne recalls. "I was very low after that. "I took it really badly. You question everything you do."

For a man whose belief systems were unshakeable as a player, this one cut Dunne to the bone.

It took him a while to recover, until the following Easter when Dublin manager Anthony Daly called and asked if he might help out with a couple of coaching sessions.

Dunne reveals: "When I took up the Dublin job, I was going up there very low on confidence. But with the Dublin lads, it turned out to be a very good experience.


"It helped me to get my confidence back in terms of coaching and I'm very grateful to them for that."

Dunne, Tipp's 2001 All-Ireland winning captain, remembers his first trip to the capital to meet the Dubs.

He linked up with Ross Dunphy, the physical trainer, in Newbridge and the pair drove on from there.

"I was very, very nervous about it," Dunne remembers. "Wondering would I have the conviction I used to have before, wondering was I good enough, if the stuff I was doing was the right stuff.

"All of those old doubts and niggly things. 'What am I going to do here? I don't know if I'm going to be able to do this.'

"But I remember Anthony Daly saying to me that I wouldn't feel the drive home after working with these players. And they were brilliant guys to work with.

"I used to come away from some of the sessions really energised. It turned out to be a really great experience on a personal level, helped me to get going again."

Dublin helped to turn Dunne's life around again, after Tipp had turned it upside down.

"That's Tipperary," he smiles. "Anybody involved with Tipperary knows that's part of it. That's the way it is.

"It's tough when you're going through it. Rightly or wrongly, you tend to shoulder a lot of responsibility when you're in those sorts of roles.

"When you're involved with any Tipp team, you're looking to improve the players, number one, and hopefully results will follow. It left a huge mark.

"I didn't coach for a relatively long time after that. My first session was probably with the Dublin boys."

They loved him right from the start, and that affection was reciprocated. It was the summer when Daly's men won a Leinster title and almost contested an All-Ireland final.


Dunne adds: "I was in a position where I said, yeah, I could do that. It just seemed to click fairly quickly. I really enjoyed the energy off the group and the feedback was good in terms of the sessions.

"It was a very loose arrangement, once a week, but coincided with the lads having a great run in the Championship.

"I've had a great relationship with them ever since, I'm always looking out for them and hoping they'll do well."

Dunne's thirst for knowledge and self-improvement saw him gain a strength and conditioning degree from Setanta College and now he's studying for a masters.

A self-employed director of Amber Fire systems, he's not quite sure how he fits everything in and the demands on his time meant he had to quit as Dublin coach in January, despite accepting a role alongside Ger Cunningham last November.

"Time mis-management is probably more accurate," the Toomevara native laughs. "You've got to adapt and I've had huge support from Deirdre at home.

"I had planned to be with Dublin but I realised that I wasn't going to be able to continue studying and working and having the commitment of being an intercounty senior hurling coach.

"At the time I took up the option of going back with Dublin, I hadn't got the masters at that stage, I didn't think I was going to get on the course.

"Shortly after that, I got the opportunity to go on the masters course and that's the way it worked out. At the minute, I'm doing some coaching with Clarecastle, that's the extent of my coaching this year."

Some day, he may return to Tipperary in some capacity but for now, other parts of Tommy Dunne's life take priority.

Theo is starting school soon and, hopefully, there's a house to be built in the next 18 months.

And so at Semple Stadium tomorrow afternoon, he'll sit back and watch Tipp against Waterford in the Munster final.

He believes that if they can keep it tight at the back, Tipp have the firepower to get the job done, although Waterford will present the hosts with their "biggest challenge to date this year."

As a coach, however, Dunne is amazed by Eamon O'Shea's work with Tipp.

"It's staggering the progress the team has made in the last two years," he says. "2013 was a disappointing year, 2014 was much better and 2015 has been very solid so far.

"Whether Tipp win the Championship or not this year, the work they've done has been absolutely phenomenal.

"They've brought new players in and revitalised players that have been there a few years. They're a super team to watch."

For sure, they've come a long way. But so, too, has Tommy Dunne.

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