Friday 20 September 2019

'They wanted it more'

Manager Dunne thrilled for players

Liam Dunne leaves his charges to attend to the business in hand prior to Saturday's success over Cork in Semple Stadium, Thurles
Liam Dunne leaves his charges to attend to the business in hand prior to Saturday's success over Cork in Semple Stadium, Thurles
Liam Dunne celebrating with his son, Jack, after the first win over Cork in the championship since 1956

Brendan Furlong

1956 was the year, just in case you've long forgotten. Not since that September day 60 years ago had Wexford beaten Cork in the Senior hurling championship.

While little was made of that barren spell in the build-up to the game, it made this Wexford breakthrough all the more satisfying and enriching as they handed Cork a three-point defeat in this All-Ireland round two qualifier at Semple Stadium, Thurles, on Saturday.

No, not even the missing quintet of Liam Ryan, Shane Tomkins, Andrew Shore, Shaun Murphy and David Redmond could take from this marvellous Wexford display, rocking their way to the quarter-finals with a blistering finish after they had fallen behind by a point to a Cork goal eight minutes from the end.

Wexford's first championship win over Cork in 60 years was all the more impressive given it was achieved against this backdrop of injuries to key players.

'We have been devastated with injuries all season but it provided an opportunity for other players,' elated manager Liam Dunne said.

'This opened the door to other players as we had six of our Intermediate team included in the subs, and one (Simon Donohoe) came on in the second-half. It's huge for Wexford hurling and hurling in general.

'My long term aim when coming into this job five years ago was to re-build Wexford hurling. We have one of the youngest teams in the championship but with the injured players back for next season we will have a squad of players worthy of Wexford hurling,' he said.

'The result is fantastic and an absolute tribute to this group of players. I am just thrilled for the players, thrilled for those who came into the system and stood up for Wexford hurling. They were just fantastic today.

'The way they battled back after conceding that late goal to go on and strike the crucial points demonstrates how these young players are developing.

'If we had lost last week we were out. If we had lost today we were out. We have prolonged it now. We look forward to it, whoever we play in the quarter-finals, and we'll knuckle down and go again. I am delighted for the players,' Dunne continued.

'Last year's game (against Cork) was over after 15 minutes. That is something we talked about, something we were not going to allow happen again, as we set out to take the challenge to Cork from the very off. We needed to come out of the blocks because if Cork had got the momentum it would have been curtains.'

The next aim is the quarter-finals and taking on another of the big guns.

'Injuries resulting in losing players did not help us in the league. This continued into the championship when we were in trouble again with injuries, losing Lee Chin and James Breen before the Dublin game. But credit to the players who have come in and taken their chance, as they showed lots of character.

'I'm sure whoever we meet in the quarter-final will have lots to say,' Dunne said directly after the match when the next opponents weren't known.

'But let's just say for now we savour the moment, and look forward to whoever it may be. We will worry about that when we return to training this week.'

Cork selector Pat Ryan knew why Cork, who beat Wexford by 2-22 to 0-20 in the qualifiers last year, had lost. 'They worked way harder than we did and showed more fight,' he said.

'They wanted it more. That is pretty much it. We went a point ahead but failed to close it out. Wexford showed great bottle, credit to them. I can point to the wide count but we didn't really get a grip on the game at any stage,' he added.

Wexford People