No Garden leave for evergreen O’Dwyer

Wicklow v Carlow

Take last January as an example. With the country caught in a cold snap and Wicklow, one of the counties hardest hit by snowdrifts and icy roads, the Garden county boss continued commuting from his Waterville base taking training sessions and plotting for the championship which begins against Carlow tomorrow.

Here is a man who, by his own admission, has an ‘addiction’ to the game of football and, a secondary obsession with driving. A man whose ‘love’ of the game remains undiminished from the time he ended a hugely successful playing career in the same year he was appointed as Kerry manager in 1974.

And, not content with leading arguably the greatest team of all time to a record eight All-Ireland victories in an eleven-year period, he went on to weave his magic first in Kildare, then Laois and, for the past three years with the Garden County,

When he took over there, in October 2006, Wicklow football was at a low ebb.

But, within a year they had won the Tommy Murphy Cup, while in 2008 they beat Kildare to win their first Leinster championship game in Croke Park.

Yet last season was the most memorable. After beating Longford in the first round, they went out to Westmeath after extra time. Then followed a remarkable run in the qualifiers – featuring wins over Fermanagh, Cavan and Down – which was ended by Kildare.

One more win and they would have been in the All-Ireland quarter-final.

“I just love it,’’ says O’Dwyer. “I get great enjoyment from preparing young fellows and see them improve and playing well.’’

He laughed when asked about what motivated him to travel to training during the worst of the winter weather.

“I’m addicted to motor cars and football. That has been the way all my life. I was in the motor trade and I got so used to driving, bringing new cars from Dublin down to Waterville and so on. Down there you have to live with the motor car and I have lived with it all my life.’’

For him, one constant has been his approach to training players – agreeing that he has always placed a high premium on motivation and physical fitness.

“It’s the same preparation all the time. I never changed from the day I started and I don’t think it’s worth my while changing now,’’ he commented.

In terms of the playing rules, he would love to see players being give the freedom to hand-pass the ball ‘as before’ and he has he has campaigned all his life for the clean pick-up off the ground. “The less stoppages you have in a game the better and the frees for those are not fouls in my opinion. There is a big grey area around the pick-up and the hand pass so I’d let them go and let the game flow.’’

He has to balance ambitions for another good run in the championship this year, with the fact that the team has been weakened by injuries and the departure of Thomas Walsh, who has transferred back to Carlow.

“Last year was an unbelievable year for Wicklow, but this is going to be a tough game to win. However, our fellows are in good shape and I’m hoping we will perform well.’’

Longer term, Micko has no intention of retiring, insisting that he intends to keep at it for as long as he continues to enjoy it – even if he did qualify this with the statement that, come Monday morning, ‘he might decide to pack it in.’

However, deep down, you know that won’t happen for a long time yet.

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