Belfast Telegraph

Kerry GAA godfather Mick O'Dwyer won't disappear in retirement

Declan Bogue

AND that's all she wrote, thought hundreds of thousands of Gaelic football fans when word came through late last week about the impending retirement of Mick O'Dwyer from all inter-county action.

Pretty much a year ago to this day, I based a column on having sat beside the great Down wing-forward Sean O'Neill for the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards. He is not one who is predisposed to reminiscing over his football career on the pitch, but when he did he talked about how difficult it was when you approached a game against Mick O'Dwyer.

The two often faced each other as direct opponents. In O'Neill's mind, O'Dwyer wasn't the strongest, but he was wiry and absolutely fearless. He was also incredibly elusive and it became O'Neill's role from time to time to be mindful where O'Dwyer would pop up.

Due to his outstanding success on the sidelines as Kerry manager, his abilities as a player have been sometimes overlooked. That had a lot to do with the advent of television, the rivalry with Dublin, and how Gaelic football entered the living rooms and popular imaginations of Ireland's towns and cities.

Now, O'Dwyer says that's him. No more management. He's 77 now, the years he left off having surgery on his ankle slowing him down. He says that should someone require support, he will always be on hand.

We expect to see him cropping up in some county as the Championship approaches, much like Brian McEniff suddenly appeared in Peter Fitzpatrick's Louth backroom team in 2010 when they were robbed of the Leinster Championship.

Old Godfathers never really retire you see, they just become advisers. The lure of the game was too much for McEniff last year, who stepped in to become manager of his club Bundoran when they were faced with a crisis, digging out an old pair of trainers that he thought he might never wear again.

It's worth recapping O'Dwyer's achievements. Especially given that a few years back, his reputation was savaged by his former Laois player-turned-pundit Colm Parkinson, who said he was "a bluffer."

Some lapped this lamentable, primitive analysis up, hailing Parkinson as some latter-day speaker of the one true universal truth. Go Parky!

Yet, incredibly, he brought Kildare, a county without a Leinster title since 1956, two Delaney Cups in 1998 and 2000.

Laois hadn't won anything since 1946, yet he dragged them to a Leinster in 2003 too.

As a player for his native Kerry, for a full 17 seasons, yielded 11 Munster titles, four All-Irelands and seven National Leagues.

As a manager for 15 seasons; 11 Munster titles. Eight All-Irelands, three National Leagues. All while pursuing a successful business career.

Back home in Kerry, he is revered for his wide-ranging abilities and his light-touch humour. He once advised Darragh Ó Sé that if he had a few spare pound, to follow his lead and buy fish and chip shops in Dublin. The reasoning was that townies would eat chips for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

In Waterville, there are two statues; Mick O'Dwyer, and Charlie Chaplin. Every resident in that Kerry village that passes their monuments and knows something of their background might pause to think of two men who went to the absolute limit that their talent could take them.

What a fine thought indeed.

Belfast Telegraph


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