Liam Dunne says Gary Kirby incident can't mar All-Ireland win

Former Wexford captain and manager Liam Dunne says he would have put his life on the line to aid his county’s drive to All-Ireland glory in 1996.
Liam Dunne says Gary Kirby incident can't mar All-Ireland win
Liam Dunne of Wexford holds off Limerick's Gary Kirby during the 1996 All-Ireland Hurling Final. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile

Former Wexford captain and manager Liam Dunne says he would have put his life on the line to aid his county’s drive to All-Ireland glory in 1996.

Centre-back Dunne was named man of the match after a stellar defensive display against Limerick, but an aerial clash with Gary Kirby has also earned him plenty of criticism in the subsequent years.

Limerick free-taker and playmaker Kirby and Dunne both pulled hard on a dropping ball, which resulted in a broken finger for Kirby after a few minutes of play.

Talking to A Hurler’s Life podcast, Dunne said he and his teammates put everything on the line to secure a first Liam MacCarthy Cup for their side since 1968.

“The Gary Kirby incident, it has always been talked about and will always be talked about,” said Dunne.

“Unfortunately from my end of it there, there were different things that came along with the game. I like to look at and remember a man of the match trophy and an All-Ireland medal to show for it.

“Look, what’s done is done. I would have put my life on the line to win that All-Ireland final for myself, my family and for Wexford to be honest.

The ball came down, the two of us pulled. I’d ask anybody to look at the video there and watch the way my opponent was pulling on the ball. But 28 years of vengeance went into it. I have an All-Ireland medal at the end of the day and not too many Wexford men have those.

“It was probably our moment in time, it was the one opportunity that we got in my lifetime hurling for Wexford. We got the one opportunity and we took it.

“I suppose (there is) bitterness from it or different things happened afterwards there, but you move on. Two years ago I was picked on the team of the decade along with my own county men Damien Fitzhenry and Martin Storey, and who was on it as well only Gary Kirby and Ciaran Carey.

“I made it my business to go over to him to talk to him over in Croke Park. I would have met Ciaran a few times but probably only met Gary once in the 20 something years since the final. I went over and shook hands with him and spoke to him. Limerick won their first All-Ireland for 45 years and he was the first man I went over to shake his hand.”

Over the years Dunne has been accused of deliberately seeking to strike Kirby in the incident, which was seen as a vital moment in the game where Wexford claimed a 1-13 to 0-14 victory.

But Wexford played all of the second half with 14 men following Eamonn Scallan’s red card, and Dunne thinks their disciplined defensive display was the deciding factor.

“I look back on it, Gary Kirby had scored 1-33 in the championship. If we were going to give away frees that day we were going to be crucified.

“The defensive masterclass, I don’t think we conceded a free in the second half within 80 yards. Down to 14 men and we were under some pressure, but to a man, we stood up to be counted.

“I think Martin Storey gave a free away in the first half and Rob Guiney. Gary stuck the two of them over the bar with his broken finger but he never got another opportunity after that.

“It was a panel performance, it was something that you look back on now and as my old partner in crime, Ger Cushe said to me one day, ‘aren’t we very lucky men that we have one’, and we are.”

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