WEXFORD manager Liam Dunne went home from Ennis content that his gear bag contained a particular jersey.
A combative half-back in his own day, Dunne headed for Ennis last Saturday intent on winning and heading home with Brendan Bugler’s jersey. He half succeeded on the first count and followed that up by getting his hands on the Whitegate man’s number five jersey.
“I asked him for his jersey. I got to him last year but he was after swapping his jersey. He’s a man that I have admired for a long, long time. I think he’s a great bit of stuff and a great hurler. He gave me his jersey and I’m delighted going home with that,” Dunne revealed.
He feels Wexford will benefit from the game. “To score 2-25 apiece, would any team deserve to lose a game? Clare are not All-Ireland champions for nothing and they proved it today. We put them under pressure in the first half and they were able to respond. I have to give our fellas credit but we’re a work in progress. We’re trying to get back up, step-by-step and this is fantastic for our players. It’s another game on Saturday against the All-Ireland champions. Whatever way it goes next week, it’s bit by bit and inch by inch. That’s the way it is down in Wexford at the moment but when you’re getting a commitment from a group of players, you can’t ask for any more. I think the people got value for their money,” he smiled.
Dunne, sent off a few times in his own playing career, was dismayed to see Podge Collins issued with a red card.
“I’d feel sorry for him. I know what it’s like to be sent off. I know the referee had to go by the rule but, at the same time, it’s really harsh on a player like that and it doesn’t do anything for the game,” he maintained.
He is hopeful that this weekend’s replay will bring on Wexford.
“It’s another day, another game and we’ll go again. Clare won’t have any fear of coming to Wexford. It’s fantastic for our players to have another game against the All-Ireland champions. I knew the trip to Ennis was coming during the week but that was about all. In the game against Dublin, we were disappointed. But we said in the dressing room afterwards that there were things that went wrong for us that day that were very fixable.
“At this level, against the top teams, you have to be able to take your opportunities. We had lots of goal chances against Clare and we didn’t put them away. That’s another part of the process of what we have to keep working on,” he noted.
“We got the tough end of the draw but, at the same time, it was a huge challenge for our players. If we make the same mistakes on Saturday as we made today and we don’t take our opportunities, Clare will put us to the pin of our collars. But when you’re getting the commitment and you’re getting fellas that are wanting to hurl for their county, you’re going somewhere. I see the work that these fellas are putting in but there’s a lot more work to be done,” Dunne pointed out.
He didn’t instruct his players what to do from their late second half penalty.
“I leave that to the lads themselves. I was surprised Paul Morris took it. I thought Jack Guiney was going to take it. Paul took it and stuck it over the bar. The boys saved the penalty from Tony Kelly but the rebound went in. That’s just a bit of experience.
“The only way they’re going to learn is playing the top teams. I’ve been saying that for two years,” the quietly spoken Wexford manager said.