Needs must and the Kerryman has welcomed the provincial season opener to his bosom like a long-lost child as he attempts to fashion a Wickow team that can leave the foothills behind for a higher plain.
Dublin manager Paul Caffrey also kind words for a competition that has been a huge assistance to two counties with very different ambitions for the year ahead.
Much has been made of the benefit the run of games has had for Wicklow but the Dubs may look back on the usually barren month of January come summer and be even more thankful for it’s rich harvest.
Dermot Connolly has been their most exciting yield. Though he made his debut against DCU little over a fortnight ago, the gifted dual player has already done enough to suggest that he will be dovetailing with Alan Brogan and Conal Keaney in Croke Park come championship time.
He contributed five points at the weekend, the three from dead balls suggesting that Mossy Quinn’s days of place kicking for his county are rapidly winding down.
Brogan and Keaney were in equally fluid form while, further back, greenhorns like Niall O’Shea at full-back, Colin Prenderville and Gerard Brennan soaked up the experience of a rare 70 minutes at this level.
Thirteen points to 1-1 up at the break with the benefit of a sweeping gale at their backs, the elements and Wicklow’s shortcomings meant that this was a day when little of real value was to be learned about his team.
Admitted Caffrey: “It was a day in Aughrim when we were looking to come out of it (with a win) and that’s what we did. The wind was horrific out there and you can see that by the scoreline in both halves. So, it was a matter of batting down the hatches after the break.
“It was always going to be a case of what the team with the wind could clock up. We clocked up a respectable scoreline with the wind and it was only a matter of defending it then. Luckily enough we were able to do that.”
With Dublin’s first league game against Tyrone under the lights at Croke Park and Wicklow’s against Antrim in Division 2B, the yawning chasm between these two was obvious long before the throw-in.
It was accentuated on the pitch where Dublin’s greater physicality, awareness and point-taking were all of a different calibre. While the visitors kicked 13 of 16 attempts in the first half, Wicklow sent at least eight adrift in the second.
“I suppose the most important thing is that we competed right through to the very end,” said an upbeat O’Dwyer. “Nobody left the pitch until the game was over so that was a good sign.
“They would be way ahead of us in terms of fitness and power, but I admired the way our fellas competed all the way through. We have work to do, a lot to learn, but that was a good education.”
As O’Dwyer added, Wicklow are very much in the rebuilding stage as evidenced by the fact one of their best players, Leighton Glynn, was used at corner-forward yesterday just two weeks after facing Carlow as a left-half back.
Though their interest in the O’Byrne Cup is now over, the gruelling laps in training will continue and, one by one, the eight or nine players O’Dwyer has yet to trim down to his satisfaction will return to the fold. Saturday may have shown them just how far they have to climb but the competition in general, with earlier victories over Carlow and Wexford, has proven that they have the stomach for the ascent.
“The O’Byrne Cup has given us the chance to look at players. It has been very good and we have learned quite a lot. We got three games and that was most important. That will give us a chance to get ready for Antrim here in two weeks’ time.”
DUBLIN: S Cluxton; P Griffin, N O’Shea, C Prenderville; C Goggins, C Moran, G Brennan; D Magee, D O’Mahony; D Murray (0-1), D Lally, D Connolly (0-5, 2f, 1’45’); A Brogan (0-3), K Bonner ()-1), C Keaney (0-5, 2f).
Subs: P Burke for Bonner 30, J Magee for D Magee 51, D Magee for O’Mahony 59, B Cahill for Lally 63, T Quinn for Burke 65.
WICKLOW: J Bolger; C Hyland, D Ó hAnnaidh, A Byrne; S Cushe, C Foley, K Manning; J Stafford (0-1), D Jackman; J Slattery, JP Dalton, P Phibbs; L Glynn, P Earls (0-3), T Hannon (1-1).
Sub: S King for Phibbs 25.
Referee: S O’Shea (Wexford).