Laois backing 'hero' Micko
LAOIS footballers have come out in a show of support for Mick O'Dwyer, following astonishing claims by their former colleague, Colm Parkinson, that the man who steered them to a first Leinster title for 57 years was "an absolute bluffer" and "an awful man manager."
Parkinson also asserted that O'Dwyer had favourites and would pass by subs without even recognising them.
Parkinson made his comments on Newstalk last Saturday and they evoked an angry reaction among the Laois football fraternity when reproduced in the 'Leinster Express' yesterday.
Several Laois players -- past and present -- contacted the Irish Independent last night to personally disassociate themselves from Parkinson's remarks and to express their appreciation for what O'Dwyer did for the county during his spell in charge from 2003 to 2006.
Parkinson made the comments during a discussion on Wicklow's prospects of beating Carlow last Sunday after international rugby star Bernard Jackman predicted that O'Dwyer would "have a trick up his sleeve."
Parkinson, who played for Laois for 10 years and who says he may attempt a return next year, was disparaging of O'Dwyer, however.
"I can tell you now that Micko will have nothing up his sleeve. He's an absolute bluffer. He's an awful man manager. He has favourites. He could pass by subs and not even know them. He'd have three or four favourites and that's it."
It has led to uproar among Parkinson's colleagues who are angry that a man they regard as a heroic figure should be portrayed so negatively.
Joe Higgins, a star defender before, during and after the O'Dwyer era in Laois, said that man management was one of his main attributes.
"There wasn't a player in Laois who didn't want to play for him. When he came in first, I was busy building a house and said I couldn't join the panel but he came out to see me personally, sat down for ages and talked everything through. He persuaded me to give it a go.
"I told him I couldn't go back in until the following January and he said, 'okay.' Here was the most famous manager of all time who could have left me sitting at home because I didn't respond immediately but he knew well how to handle lads. I'm managing the Laois ladies team now and if ever I want a bit of advice I ring Micko. I'll have him down later on in the season to talk to them, I wouldn't have a bad word said against him," said Higgins.
Brian 'Beano' McDonald said that O'Dwyer's record -- both before and after he was with Laois -- spoke for itself.
"It's hardly a fluke that we were beaten out the gate in the 2002 All-Ireland qualifiers and were Leinster champions the next year. Micko had his own way of doing things but he always knew what he was at. Lads put in the extra effort for him all the time. I would hate if he thought that the vast majority of the players he dealt with hadn't the height of respect for him.
"I can guarantee him we have."
Gary Kavanagh said that O'Dwyer's ability to make players believe they could beat anybody was unrivalled.
"If you didn't belief in yourself after listening to him, you never would. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but I certainly wouldn't accept any criticism of Micko."
Noel Garvan said that O'Dwyer had brilliant motivational methods and improved players on other fronts too.
"I can certainly say he improved my game. The facts are simple -- Laois weren't winning before he came and then we enjoyed our best period for decades. That can hardly be a coincidence. It's not. Whatever anyone can call him, it's certainly not a bluffer. He always knew where he was heading -- he had a great sense of cuteness."
Declan O'Loughlin, a man who played a large part in bringing O'Dwyer to Laois and who served as a selector, said that the support for him was overwhelming.
"I was painting my hotel today and I hardly got any work done with people stopping to talk about what they had read in the paper.
"They were all amazed and disappointed by it because Micko is still a hero to most Laois people," he said.
Parkinson did pay some tributes to O'Dwyer, pointing out that all the top players wanted to play for him.
It's understood that most of the Laois players who played under O'Dwyer, plus several officials at club and county level, contacted him to dissociate themselves from Parkinson's remarks.