Listening to the words of Wexford manager Liam Dunne, you can sense a renewed air of optimism as his side prepare to tackle Waterford in Sunday’s All-Ireland SHC quarter-final at Semple Stadium, throw-in 2pm.

Wins over Offaly and Cork, following on from an average enough league campaign in Division 1B and an abject display against Dublin in the Leinster quarter-final, have put Wexford folk in confident mood for a clash against opposition who were badly mauled by Tipperary in the Munster final.

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“I wouldn’t say it’s bonus territory for us,” was how Dunne summed up where his troops are currently at when he spoke to RTÉ Sport.

He continued: "We've had two very good performances against Offaly and Cork and we deserve to be there.

"We are meeting a Waterford team that are a little bit wounded from the Munster final, but we're there on merit and we'll focus on our own game and are looking forward to a huge challenge. 

“We believe we can beat Waterford. It’s just a matter of going and doing it now.”

Despite dealing with a crippling injury list, Dunne has hailed the spirit within the Yellowbellies camp as he seeks to build a side that can be a force more regularly in the years to come.

“We have been decimated with injuries all year, so much so that that we're nearly afraid at this stage to play a 15-a-side game in training. The injuries that guys have got have been horrendous but that's often part and parcel of things.

"Thankfully, younger lads have stepped up and that brings its own spirit within the camp. Winning also brings a greater spirit and or last two performances have been very good. We need a third one now." 

The 1996 All-Ireland winner is confident that the “period of transition” that he is currently overseeing will reap benefits.

“There's a whole new team now and It takes time for players to mentally and physically develop but they are getting there slowly,” he added.

“I would like to get them there quicker.

“It's 20 years since our last All Ireland and it's 2004 since our last Leinster. The expectation of some people in Wexford is crazy. There is a foundation being built here over the last two or three years to have a team that will be competitive.”

When asked whether Wexford can break through the Waterford rearguard in the same way Tipperary did a fortnight ago, Dunne replied: "Every day is a different challenge. Waterford have a system. It's their system and it has worked for their players.

"Okay, it didn't work in the Munster final, but why would they move away from it?  It has given them much success.

“We will bring our own game to the party on Sunday, that's what we are going to do.”

Not surprisingly, Dunne is expecting a tight contest in Thurles.

“We've had close encounters with Waterford over the last couple of years - the games in Wexford Park in the league. We beat them in the championship in Nowlan Park two years ago but this is the biggest challenge coming up on Sunday.

“Waterford have been a top-four team in recent seasons and Derek McGrath has done a marvelous job. It comes down now to two managers and two teams on Sunday afternoon. There won’t  be a lot in it.”   

Watch live coverage of Wexford v Waterford on RTÉ Two and the RTÉ Player from 1.30pm on Sunday 24 July. Watch highlights of all the weekend's action on RTÉ Two from 9.30pm.