Micko remains on the road

IT was meant to be Mick O’Dwyer’s swan song, the last fling of the most successful GAA manager of all time.

But, like much of his career in the last 15 years, the old Waterville maestro surprised us again.

In the dressing rooms afterwards he told the team a tale from his days with Kerry and then he told them to believe, to believe they too could win an All-Ireland some day.

Then he sat in the corner with the county’s GAA president Peter Keogh, two old age pensioners enjoying the players’ celebrations.

“It was a marvellous win,” he said, sweat still running from his forehead. “It was great football, real championship football wasn’t it? That’s what I love about this game, they can have leagues and they can have everything but the only thing that matters is the championship.”

With the game still very much in the mix, he threw on his youngest player, Avondale’s Conor McGraynor, who finished his Leaving Cert last week. The youngster took the ball in from the 45 with his first touch, threw a dummy a la Tyrone’s Owen Mulligan against the Dubs in ‘05 and smashed it low to the corner. When he kicked a point five minutes later Sligo were finished and fortress Aughrim was set up for another run in the qualifiers.

“I’ll be here for another couple of weeks at least,” Micko laughed.

“The level of satisfaction that win gave the people of Wicklow is unbelievable. We were down a lot of great players today, missing six or seven but the players we introduced today were exceptional.”

Sligo were shell-shocked. Several times they looked close to taking a stranglehold but it never happened.

Wicklow turned them over in possession and were more clinical against the wind. The Connacht side’s sole consolation was the performance of Curry’s Adrian Marren who was unmarkable when given the right ball.

That he failed to get on it more was an indictment of those further out the field but manager Kevin Walsh refused to criticise his midfield or half-back lines.

“They didn’t clear us out in the air,” he said.

“I thought we turned the ball over too much and that killed us more than anything else. We got plenty of ball but that’s the way it goes.”

In an even first-half the sides were level six times before Wicklow showed more desire. With a strong wind at their backs and the scores 0-6 apiece, James Stafford took control.

The midfielder tore through the middle and delivered pinpoint passes to allow Tony Hannon, Rory Finn and Leighton Glynn follow his lead with points and create the first big gap of the game.

A late solo effort by Marren reduced it to 0-10 to 0-7 at the break.

Still though, Sligo looked in control of their destiny and when Brendan Egan, Tony Taylor and Marren (two) levelled the scores again the Yeats County men were about to send Micko into retirement.

But the old master had a few tricks left. Stafford went down for a lengthy injury break and Sligo lost momentum. The sides began to trade points again at an even rate and Micko sprung McGovern.

“It’s amazing with this team of mine at the moment we generally play better against the wind,” he said.

“We can hold the ball up well and use possession well. The goal won the game and the lad that got it is just out of minor and only did his Leaving Cert. He’s capable of doing that.”

With eight minutes left the teenager’s net buster turned the game. Before the cheering had died down Sligo had a chance of riposte but Marren, for once, was found wanting hitting his shot off John Flynn’s legs with the goal gaping.

It would be their last chance. Wicklow got stronger as the finale drew closer and as for Micko? There’s life in the old dog yet.

Scorers for Wicklow: T Hannon (0-2 45s, 1fs), S Furlong (2fs) 0-4 each, C McGraynor 1-1, N Mernagh, J Stafford, L Glynn 0-2 each, P Earls, R Finn, D Hayden 0-1 each.

Scorers for Sligo: A Marren 0-9 (2fs), T Taylor 0-3, S Coen, E O’Hara, M Breheny, B Egan 0-1 each.

Subs for Wicklow: P Higgins for Hyland (18), C McGraynor for JP Dalton (61), P Dalton for Hannon (72).

Subs for Sligo: J Davey for Rooney (42), D Kelly for Coen (47), F Quinn for McGuire (53), J Martyn for Gilmartin (61).

Referee: E Kinsella (Laois).

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