French happy to fill Micko’s boots as Garden eyeing title

IF THERE is one thing the Tommy Murphy Cup has achieved, it has pushed Arthur French firmly into the GAA spotlight.

The Wicklow man has performed the role of adjutant since Mick O’Dwyer assumed the role of general in the Garden County last year, yet the Waterville maestro’s unavailability for the GAA’s secondary football competition has seen French take up the reins.

Last season French steered Wicklow to their maiden Tommy Murphy Cup success and 12 months later he is closing in on a repeat triumph as Wicklow square off against Antrim today in Croke Park. It’s a strange sort of fame that French has assumed.

“I’m not too sure if I’ve suddenly become famous, but you media guys are definitely doing your best to do that”, he laughs. “But you know it’s great to be in the final. We haven’t really put much into it, probably only having two get-togethers since the start of it. The two games we’ve played have been tough enough against Waterford and Leitrim but we’re happy to have come through them.”

French may be the head honcho in Wicklow at the moment but he’s acutely aware that it is a temporary gig. There is no hesitancy in stating that Micko remains the main man and even despite his apathy towards the Tommy Murphy Cup, he has still been hanging around the Wicklow football scene.

“Micko has been at training but he does let me at it. He gives me total control of the sessions. We’d be best of friends and it is good that he’s there. I can’t stress enough how extraordinary an influence he has been on football in the county. He lifts everyone. I reckon if Micko has been around that the Titanic wouldn’t have sunk! He has this extraordinary, unique, one-off motivation skill.”

Their joy at the Tommy Murphy Cup showing is tempered by the fact that they weren’t allowed to feature in the All-Ireland qualifiers this season. After losing to Laois in the Leinster quarter-final they were consigned to the wasteland and to twist the knife even further, Wicklow have had to watch Kildare, who they ousted earlier in the season, make substantial gains in the qualifier circuit. French has serious misgivings about that situation.

“The GAA came up with this elitist situation. They decided to help the weaker counties but helped them by not letting them dine at the top table, instead shoving them off into another room. The competition itself is very good. But the administration of the Tommy Murphy Cup I think has been utterly disgraceful.”

Still today Wicklow will aim to sign off on their Tommy Murphy Cup experiences on a winning note.

“It is a Croke Park appearance at the end of the day.

“I think we have made great progress this year. The eyes of the country will be on us and we’ll try to put our best foot forward now.”

WICKLOW (Murphy Cup v Antrim): M Travers; C Hyland, D Power A Byrne; R Nolan, D Ó’hAnnaidh, L Glynn; J Stafford, T Walsh; J McGrath, T Hannon, P Earls; C Walsh, S Furlong, D Daly.

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