“Of course I welcome him, yes. I haven’t had any contact with him since the 90s, but I’ve heard him interviewed on the radio, seen what he’s achieved with Oulart The Ballagh, and he’s very well clued in. It was time for one of that ‘96 Wexford team (All-Ireland winners) to step up to the plate, they’re the lads all the current players would have looked up to when they were starting out playing, and Liam is the one with the highest profile.
“He’s going to find a major difference though. Inter-county is a huge step-up, but he’ll learn. The supporters will have to be patient, give him some time — you can’t expect him to just turn it around straight away.
“One of the beauties for me is that because I’m still based in Ennis (he runs a sports shop there) I don’t bump into the Dublin supporters all the time, but I hear the Clare fans here and the expectations they have — we were in what, three All-Ireland finals since 1932? I don’t know, some people are very unrealistic.
“Kilkenny, Cork and Tipp have dominated hurling from the start and that’s not going to change. Every now and then another team can have an era where they’re at the top table, but it takes a massive effort. You look at Dublin this year, Ballyboden St Enda’s champions again and that’s without Stephen Hiney and Conal Keaney, one of the best defenders and one of the best forwards in the country, and still they dominate.
“Then you look at the competition in Kilkenny, the number of teams who can win the county — the gap is huge, and Liam is going to find that out. People are going to have to give him time to get his bearings.”
Dunne himself, doesn’t want to talk yet about his new role. “I’ve had the job for a number of weeks,” he told RTÉ yesterday. “But with the county final against Rathnure coming up (at the time), then getting over that, achieving three-in-a-row in Wexford, we had the Kilkenny champions to take care of. My focus is on the Oulart job, we have the Laois champions in Wexford Park on Sunday and I still have a big job to do — Wexford is on the long finger.”
Having had years of managerial experience with both his native Clare and now Dublin, however, Anthony has some advice for Liam. “A lot of it is how you organise your backroom team. We’re facing into year four in Dublin and we’re tinkering with things all along, how we can improve things. You want to get some input from the players as well, without them running the show, obviously.
“You’re appointed by the board but the players are the ones most involved so it makes sense to involve them, and if they have good suggestions, to implement those. You have to have some democracy, though there will come a point when you just have to say ‘no, we can’t do that’.
“We actually had a session this year, down in Miltown-Malbay when we were away for a night before the All-Ireland semi-final, we just landed it on them — ‘by the way, ye’re taking the training session yereselves tomorrow!’ There were a few local lads there watching and wondering what the hell was going on, but they had a right good session, even came up with a few things that really impressed us.
“Myself, Martin Kennedy and Johnny McEvoy usually take the sessions between us, we were saying ‘Jaysus, that’s a right good idea!’ It really opened up our eyes to the possibilities. It was a great session, fantastic that we had reached the point where lads were prepared to take on that responsibility, and without question.”
Liam hasn’t yet named his backroom team. “I’ll be sitting down with the incoming county chairman in a couple of weeks and it will start from then,” he told Des Cahill. He will, however, be looking for inspiration beyond hurling.
“I’d look further, at the likes of Billy Walsh in boxing, Grainne Murphy in swimming, Kevin Doyle in Wolverhampton, great ambassadors for Wexford. The hurlers have to come up to the mark as well. I’m looking forward to it, a huge challenge. I don’t want anyone to get carried away, we’ve been down but there’s only way we can go now and that’s up.”