Tuesday 16 January 2018

'You wonder why it happens in Wexford' - Liam Dunne hits back strongly at rumours of unrest

Liam Dunne is facing a crucial league quarter-final against Waterford on Sunday. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Liam Dunne is facing a crucial league quarter-final against Waterford on Sunday. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

When Liam Dunne flew to Spain for a short break last Friday, he didn't think that five days later he would be on his phone at Gate B29 in Alicante airport trying to extinguish a rumour-fire back in Wexford.

Queries were raised when Dunne missed Monday's training session ahead of next Sunday's Allianz League quarter-final clash with Waterford.

He flew home yesterday morning wondering how his brief absence could have become a big story.

"It's beyond belief. You'd wonder why it happens in Wexford so often. Are there people who want us to fail and put out stuff just to cause trouble?

"Here's the truth. There was nothing behind my absence from Monday's session other than I took a few days away. The chance came up for a short break and I went for it. That's it - no mystery anywhere.

"The lads played club games at the weekend so there wasn't much we could do anyway until Monday," he said just before boarding the flight home.

Willie Cleary
Willie Cleary

Dunne explained that it was agreed to release the players for a round of club games on Saturday. They were given Sunday off before returning for a session in Ferns on Monday.

It was overseen by coach Willie Cleary, physical trainer Gerry Fitzpatrick and Tom Mullally, who has been involved with the minor team.

"Even when I was away , I was on the phone to them all the time. Why a big deal is being made of this is beyond me. I can't understand why anyone would want to stir trouble where there's none. When people who have put as much into Wexford hurling as I have over the last 40 years, let them talk.

"Otherwise, stay quiet and let those of us who are doing our best for Wexford get on with it. I don't let things like that bother me. If I did, I wouldn't be doing this job.

"I work for Stafford Fuels in New Ross and have driven over 45,000 kilometres all over Ireland in the last six months but didn't miss one training session with Wexford until Monday.

"That's the commitment I'm putting into it. I'm not looking for credit but I'll let no one say I'm not putting my heart and soul into the job. I'm giving it all I have," said Dunne.

The Wexford pre-match huddle
The Wexford pre-match huddle

Wexford go into Sunday's game against the defending league champions as 4/1 outsiders after a 1B campaign where, similar to Offaly and Kerry, they won two and lost three games.

However, they had the best scoring difference of the trio - hence their third-place finish and a clash against Waterford, who were second in 1A.

Wexford beat Kerry and Laois, the latter by the very minimum (0-22 to 0-21). Indeed, they had to stage a big finish to snatch victory and avoid facing a relegation play-off with Laois.

Earlier, Wexford lost to Offaly at home by seven points after being two goals ahead early on. They also lost heavily to Limerick in the first round.

Those results frustrated Wexford supporters and Dunne accepts that the performance level wasn't good enough.

"We all know that but we also know that we should have beaten Clare. It was only in the last few minutes that they got on top. We missed a good few chances earlier on so I'd maintain it was a game we could have won.

"People will criticise us for how we played against Laois but the important thing was that the lads delivered when they had to near the end. We were all looking down the barrel of a gun if we lost that one but the lads got stuck in and knocked over vital points. They showed real heart and commitment to get through that one," he said.

Dunne insists that despite some setbacks, morale is very good in the camp. He also believes that next Sunday's game will get the best out of the squad.

"Even when we took a big beating against Limerick and had a bad day against Offaly, the lads were back in for training full of enthusiasm. I'm not making excuses here but the truth is that we've been decimated by injuries, which makes things an awful lot harder.

"You have to ignore that as best you can and get on with controlling what you can but no team can afford to lose several good players. Our team is drawn from players between the ages of 19 and 25.

"By comparison with a lot of other counties, it's very young. We'll keep battling and no amount of knocking will distract us."

It's just over a year since Waterford and Wexford met in a 1B promotion clash in Innovate Wexford Park, which Derek McGrath's men won before going on to take the overall title.

Waterford have continued to advance, whereas Wexford had a bad championship last year, followed by an indifferent 1B campaign this spring.

They are, nonetheless, in a quarter-final, which Dunne sees as a great opportunity.

"We have a chance at home next Sunday to show what we're capable of. I hope the Wexford supporters turn out in big numbers to get behind us.

"The vast majority of hurling people in Wexford are great. They'll support you all the way. As for the others, you can't worry about them because it would get you nowhere," he said.

Irish Independent

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