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Dublin: 4°C Monday 19 April 2021

O'Keeffe acknowledges former manager Dunne's role in Wexford's Leinster success

Diarmuid O’Keeffe was keen to stress the impact Liam Dunne had on this group.

Diarmuid O'Keeffe is chased down by Adrian Mullen.
Diarmuid O'Keeffe is chased down by Adrian Mullen.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

IN THE AFTERMATH of Wexford’s Leinster SHC triumph on Sunday, Diarmuid O’Keeffe didn’t want to let the moment to pass without acknowledging former manager Liam Dunne. 

Dunne, who handed O’Keeffe his championship debut against Westmeath in 2012, finished his stint as Wexford boss at the end of the 2016 season, paving the way for Davy Fitzgerald’s arrival.

Like O’Keeffe, stalwarts Shaun Murphy and Liam Og McGovern arrived on the inter-county scene under Dunne seven years ago. They’re among the longest serving players on the Model County panel.

“We started many moons ago, a lot of the lads in there started with Liam Dunne back in 2012,” said O’Keeffe.

“In fairness to Liam, he brought us a hell of a long way in the five years that we had him.

“He completely changed the culture that was in the Wexford dressing room. Davy has obviously brought it on another step again but between the two lads they’ve done trojan work, I’m delighted for them as well.

“We’ll enjoy this evening. It’s been 2004 since Bob O’Keeffe has been in Wexford so we’ll enjoy this evening. Tuesday night we’ll get back at it again. The year’s not over though, we’re not happy to just finish up here tonight.

“I don’t think there’s any player in that dressing room who has got to hurl in the month of August so that’s massive, they’re all looking forward to it.”

Four years ago the Model suffered a 13-point trouncing by Dublin in the Leinster quarter-final. That wasn’t a high-flying Dublin side either – that turned out to be their only victory of the summer.

Wexford players dejected after the game Wexford players leave the field after their 2016 hammering by Dublin. Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

Wexford reached the All-Ireland quarter-final that year, but Waterford subjected them to a 10-point beating on another poor afternoon.

Of the players that featured in the heavy defeat to Dublin, 11 saw action against the Cats on Sunday. Eight players started both games – O’Keeffe, McGovern, Matthew O’Hanlon, Paudie Foley, Jack O’Connor, Paul Morris and Conor McDonald. 

David Dunne and Cathal Dunbar made substitute appearances on both days, while Harry Kehoe started in 2016 and came off the bench on Sunday.

“It’s mad to think that there was 11 players who were playing that night out there today. Every year is different, you have to work really, really hard and stick to the game plan and hope it works out for you.”

O’Keeffe, now 27, has thrived this season since his move from wing-back to midfield this season. The presence of Kevin Foley as a sweeper gave O’Keeffe license to attack and he broke forward to slot over two crucial scores during the win.  

He paid tribute to Fitzgerald and the impact he’s had on the squad. 

“Matt (O’Hanlon) said something exceptionally accurate in the speech – he said that he would do anything for us, he would die for us, and believe it or not, we would do the same for him.

“There’s a bond there between this group of players that we haven’t had with any other manager and look it’s great, he brings a lot to it, energy passion, but he’s organised and communication is top notch. We couldn’t fault him in any way.

“One of the things was that we knew Davy was a winner all his managerial career and we wanted to be the same. It was just about trying to go the extra mile to get to a day like today.

“Look, this group of players, we believe in our ability, we know what we’re capable of, but we also know that if we don’t work hard and bring all those things he’s asking for, we’re going nowhere.

“We do absolutely hold him in the highest regard. Can I say that there’s one thing? No, a manager of his calibre – there can’t be just one thing, he brings so many different elements.

“He’s very good at you know – some of the lads he gives it to them when it needs to be given and other lads, he’d put the around him so to speak.”

On the Sixmilebridge man, defender Murphy added: “He’s just a pure winner. Whether it’s hurling or cards or table tennis, he just wants to win.

“You could be playing on weekends away and it could be cards or it could be table tennis or whatever it’d be and it’d winner stays on and Davy comes on board and it’s a tournament, like.

“You have to win it. And he instills that into us. We have to and we want to win every game. Everything we do, I suppose we want to do it, we’ve been craving that success over the last while and I suppose he’s won it as a player and as a manager and when he tells us we’re good enough, you believe him.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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