independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

Micko on one-year mission to lift Banner

Mick O'Dwyer

Mick O'Dwyer has accepted that his traditional recipe for getting players fit may be finally off the menu.

O'Dwyer is renowned for his propensity for long runs as a basis for getting his teams into shape, with laps of the field a trademark of his training sessions.

His former Kildare captain Glenn Ryan used to joke that Micko's idea of versatility with his techniques was to merely change the direction of his laps.

However, the most celebrated manager in the game has bowed to the modern trend of delegation as he prepares Clare, the fifth inter-county team to come under his command, for the new season.

Now, for only the second time in his 35 years of managing senior inter-county teams, he is employing the services of a dedicated physical trainer.

Only once before, during his time with Laois, did he hand over the responsibility for fitness to someone else – when Gerry Loftus had a spell in 2006. But, after a Leinster championship defeat to Dublin, Micko resumed control as they took the reigning All-Ireland champions Tyrone out in a subsequent qualifier.

"The day of the lap, they tell me, is gone. I'd like to be running fellas all the time, if I had my way.

"We have a physical trainer now. We'll go with all the stuff that is going on now and see how it works.

"Michael Cahill seems pretty good and is doing a great job there. Fitness is most important in the game, but I want to see more football played in any training session, so I hope to have plenty of football in them when the spring comes."

O'Dwyer does not think that he will extend his tenure as manager of the Banner County beyond this season.

"It's a one-year term. I'm just thinking one year and that's it, I can't go on forever," he said.

Acknowledging that winning Munster titles in the company of Kerry and Cork may be beyond them, O'Dwyer feels his real mission is to generate more interest in the game throughout Clare.

"They are a long way away, there is no question of that, but if I can improve the game there and get people to play football in the county, then I think that will be my job done.

"I'm enjoying what I am doing and I am getting a great commitment. There's quite a lot of players turning up for training, so we have no complaints."

Overhaul

O'Dwyer has called for a more positive critique of Gaelic football as the prospect of an overhaul relating to playing rules at the March congress looms.

"We can be too negative. Why are all the thousands of supporters going to see all these games?

"Figures were up again last year and, in these recessionary times, the crowds are still healthy, so the game must be good if people are going to see them," he said.

"I wouldn't be going for too many changes, to be honest. I'm in favour of the mark, it is great to see fellas going up and catching the ball cleanly. Too often when the fielder lands on the ground there are seven or eight around him – it would be good for the game, and pulling and dragging would disappear.

"Maybe we are making too many changes. Every year we make alterations and it is making it harder for referees and everybody involved.

"So, if they are going to make changes, let them do it now and leave them for three or four years. I think the game is in good shape and doesn't need that much tinkering.

"Getting rid of the pick-up would improve things, because at a vital stage in a game, the referee might blow for a free that could be doubtful enough, whereas if you can pick the ball up, like in the ladies' game, it would improve matters."

O'Dwyer is uncertain about the possible addition of black cards to the game – for specific fouls and offences that govern cynicism and respect for opponents and officials – even if his preference was for a sin-bin.

"I am not too clear about the black cards at the moment. Still, I think, in a way, it would be a good thing.

"They had the sin-bin experiment and that's something they should have held on to. If they had, there would have been no need for the black card.

"maybe there would be too many cards. I think, with red and yellow, we probably have enough, but, if black cards would improve the game, I'd like to see it.

"A lot of these fellas involved in this committee seem to think it would be a good thing, so maybe we should try it.

"I'm have my doubts about the black card, but there are good men in there making decisions on it, so let's have it and see what happens."

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