Colin Dunford remains eager to deliver
By Cian O'Connell
As 2018 edges closer and a busy spring looms Colin Dunford is delighted to be part of it all. Important matches await for Waterford and IT Carlow in the New Year.
By the end of the 2017 Championship, Dunford was back making a speedy impact for Waterford in the closing stages of matches. Patience was required, but Dunford recently helped IT Carlow secured a fourth Higher Education League title in a row, but the Fitzgibbon Cup is the trophy DJ Carey’s team craves.
“We won a Freshers and now we have won four Seniors so I suppose it is a nice thing to say that you have, but at the end of the day it is about winning a Fitzgibbon, something we haven't done yet,” Dunford remarks.
Recent Fitzgibbon Cups provide hope, but the February final against Jamie Wall’s accomplished Mary I outfit offered a reminder of the distance that IT Carlow need to travel. “I don't know if we went close, we got a bit of a drubbing of Mary I in the final, they are an absolutely fantastic team doing two in a row,” is Dunford’s assessment.
Carey, who has also been installed as Kilkenny Under 21 boss for next year, has made a significant impression with IT Carlow. “DJ is absolutely fantastic,” Dunford admits. “From a fella that has done it all, you are going to listen to everything he says. Little things and tips even while you are on the field, he'd say 'do this or try this', it is absolutely great to have him there.”
Mick Dempsey’s rich contribution to the IT Carlow success story isn’t underestimated by Dunford either. “Yeah, Mick would have a massive role,” Dunford acknowledges.
“Mick is a great motivator, in fairness he puts a lot of the trust in us. He tells us that this is our team so the lads put it over to us. It is really up to us at the end of the day, but the two boys are absolutely fantastic.
“I suppose before even I went to Carlow I wouldn't even have known that they were Fitzgibbon, but in the last couple of years we've built a fairly steady team.
“The same lads are there and thankfully we all came in at the same time. This will be our last year with a lot of lads going, so this will be our year if we are going to do anything.”
Waterford advanced to an All Ireland Final in September, but were defeated by Galway in the decider. It was demanding at various stages for Dunford, who remains an important figure in the Waterford set-up.
“You are always looking back to see where you can improve,” Dunford adds. “I wouldn't say I was frustrated because there is an absolutely fantastic panel there.
“If fellas are going well, fellas are going to be playing. I probably wasn't going as well as I usually was, but that is in the past and hopefully I can build on it next year, hopefully get back to have another good year.”
Valuable lessons were learned against Galway. “It was hugely disappointing, when you get to a final, the finals are for winning,” Dunford states.
“People are saying you played well, this, and that, but that doesn't matter. You lost. You are back to square one again, running in the muck at this time of the year. You just have to use that hurt to get back, to get that one step further.”
Derek McGrath’s decision to stay in charge for another campaign is encouraging for Waterford according to Dunford. “That is a massive help,” Dunford replies. “You know the lads you are playing with, it is the same panel, you have the same management there.
“I don't know, maybe it is just more comfortable, I suppose, knowing the lads around you because you'll drive them, they'll drive you. It is a great thing to have.”