Colin Dunford hopes to make an impact
By Jackie Cahill
It was on yesterday’s date two years ago when Colin Dunford ran around Croke Park as if he owned the place.
Waterford may have lost an All-Ireland semi-final to Kilkenny by six points but Dunford scored four second half points, and could have had a couple of more.
Fresh out of the U21 ranks, the Colligan player breathed freely in rarefied atmosphere.
He’d made his senior debut in the 2014 championship, just 19 years old at the time, but this was the game that propelled him into the national consciousness.
But for Dunford, it’s been a struggle to establish himself ever since.
It’s not for the want of trying but he admits that “once you get out, it’s hard to get back on the starting team.”
He started in last year’s drawn All-Ireland semi-final with Kilkenny, manager Derek McGrath opting to take a chance on him following his exploits from the previous year.
But it didn’t work out and Dunford was whipped off at half-time.
It was his first – and last – start of the 2016 campaign and he hasn’t started a championship match yet this summer.
He was an unused substitute in the Munster semi-final loss to Cork, came on to score two points against Offaly, made a late appearance in the historic victory over Kilkenny, and got the last eight minutes in the Wexford win.
Dunford confirms that he’s “flying” this year and carrying no injuries.
But with McGrath carrying a competitive panel, he has to bide his time.
Dunford says: “If you get in, you take your chance. Once you get out, it’s hard to get back on the starting team.
“But the subs in our team are absolutely vital to the way we play. I think it’s 1-18 in the last few games that the subs are after contributing, it’s a massive thing.
“You have to do your job and accept that if you’re not in the starting 15, you could be called upon at any stage and you have to go in and do your job.”
If Tadhg de Búrca’s visit to the DRA falls on a deaf ears, a starting spot will come available for Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final with Kilkenny.
And Dunford’s putting his hand up for inclusion in training. “You’re doing your drills there at 110 per cent to try and show the lads that you’re putting in a massive effort," Dunford remarks.
“You’d miss not being on the starting 15 but I’m delighted to be getting games still, getting in there to do a job.
“Thankfully the subs are doing an effective job lately, we’re coming in and happy enough but every player wants to be on the starting 15.”
And Dunford will be ready, if called upon. He was a member of the IT Carlow team that progressed to an historic Fitzgibbon Cup final appearance this year, and he’s won three League titles there.
He’s confident in his ability but right now, patience is a virtue.
Dunford says: “Derek wants to please everyone, which he does and he does it very well.
“He’d pull you aside, telling you that the subs will have a massive impact and he’s not lying.
“The way we’re playing, you need to change it after 40-45 minutes and get fresh legs in.
“We’re lucky enough to have a few quick lads to come in and change the game.”
And Dunford knows that he has valuable Croke Park experience in the bank. When reminded of his 2015 exploits, he smiles: “Ah it wasn’t too bad!
“I was happy enough with it, the ball fell for me in the second half, ‘Brick’ (Walsh) flicked one out to me, in the second half, that was my first score and got the ball rolling for me.
“You’d have it in the back of your head that you were there and have done it before. It is good experience.”