“Liam Ryan, Paudie Foley, Conor McDonald... they’re still all U21 and holding down central positions on the team. Lee Chin is only in his third year in the team. These guys... Liam Óg McGovern, Diarmuid O’Keeffe, Eoin Moore... this is going to happen for these guys, I can tell you. I can see it and I hope it happens in my time. If it doesn’t, it will happen because they are so committed to the cause.
“They’re learning all the time. They took some heavy knocks, heavy beatings.
“It’s a bit like Oulart. We weren’t even contesting Leinster finals after winning championships in Wexford. We changed the attitude and culture. I know the club were heavily criticised for losing four Leinster finals in a row but they learned their lessons. All the ones they lost and learned from, that experience showed against Cuala last year. It’s the same with the Wexford team – Liam Dunne was a better player when he was 28 playing with Wexford than at 21. It will happen for these guys. They’ve endured and that will stand to them in the next few years.”
Dunne’s mini-break in Spain the weekend before the Division 1 quarter-final against Waterford was held up as a treasonous act only for Wexford to produce their best show of the year, losing out to Derek McGrath’s men by a point. Bearing in mind they almost saw off Clare in Wexford Park a month earlier, critics in the county may have been better advised to keep their knives sheathed.
“I was just disappointed,” he says of the reaction to his trip. “I believed our preparation was A1 I felt the turning point in the league for us was against Laois when we were two points down with 70 minutes gone and scored three points from play. We led Clare for 68 minutes in Wexford Park and couldn’t finish it out. The one thing about our players is when they do hurl well and put teams under pressure the other team has to hurl well.
“Our players don’t get the credit I feel they deserve. I didn’t feel vindicated (with the performance against Waterford) because there was nothing to be vindicated about. Our preparation was spot-on and things have equally gone as well for this game coming up. You don’t need to be a genius to know Dublin and Wexford are under pressure to win this game because the boost of confidence it would give to the winning camp. It’ll be down to whoever wants it more and form on the day. I hope we get a break along the line these fellas deserve. They say you make your own luck but I’m very happy with the commitment I’ve got from these guys.
“All sorts of things have been said but the players know the story and what we’re trying to do. They’re rowing in behind everything I do. I’ve tried to freshen things up every year. After they came off the pitch after losing to Waterford in Wexford Park, I just said to them afterwards what I saw from them that day is why I’m involved. That’s in the team every day they go out. That day, I like to think I saw what the players think of me as well. They let their hurling do the talking.”
If Dunne didn’t know Ger Cunningham was also suffering from a lengthy injury list, he would be wondering when he last walked under a ladder. Last week, he was looking at part of the sideline during training where Andrew Shore (anterior cruciate) and Lee Chin (medial cruciate) were situated and couldn’t help sighing. But then there are more on the treatment table – Ian Byrne (calf), Shaun Murphy (shoulder) and David Redmond (hip/groin) to name but three. “James Breen, on the very last play last Sunday morning, pulled his hamstring. He said it was like somebody shot him. Aidan Nolan did his knee in the club championship, a PCL (posterior cruciate ligament). We’re as good as can be. It’s the old cliché: somebody else’s misfortune is somebody’s opportunity and it’s about the fella who steps in now and takes it. We’ve no excuses; we have plenty of hurlers good enough to go and beat Dublin.
“We’re down a few bodies but Dublin are down Peter Kelly, Danny Sutcliffe and Conal Keaney’s retired. They’re changing as well. It’s about showing confidence in the young boys who have been performing so well for Wexford at under-age.”
Cunningham this week admitted the change of date for this evening’s fixture because of the Bruce Springsteen concerts had caused him some difficulty.
Dunne takes a more light-hearted approach to the rescheduling. “I’m expecting to be compensating with at least two free tickets! I’m hoping somebody will have an envelope for me there on Saturday! In all seriousness, it didn’t make a huge bit of difference. The GAA needs to make money and I say fair play. It just congested our club fixtures. Last weekend was the first weekend we had off in five weeks. You could have had an extra week without the concerts so we have had 13 days to focus on this game.
“Maybe it will work in our favour and we could be thanking Bruce!”