Gaelic Football

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Micko: There was always a huge respect between the two of us

Martin Breheny

Published 26/01/2013|05:00

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Kevin Heffernan and Mick O'Dwyer receive honorary degrees from UCD in 2004

MICK O'Dwyer was on his way to Clare for training when he heard the sad news that the man against whom he waged an intense managerial war for a decade had died.

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If Dublin v Kerry captivated the sporting world in the 1975-85 decade, the Heffo v Micko sideline rivalry formed a fascinating sub-text in a fierce battle of wits.

"We didn't talk very much – hardly at all, in fact – but we both knew what was going on in the other fella's mind. We both got great satisfaction from out-witting the other. There was always a huge respect between us," said O'Dwyer.

Dublin's return to the All-Ireland summit in 1974 was followed almost immediately by O'Dwyer's appointment as Kerry manager. He had watched Dublin expand so dramatically that year that he knew Kerry would have to do something special to match them.

"What Heffo did with Dublin in 1974 was unbelievable. It showed just how good he was as an organiser, a tactician and a motivator. He brought Dublin from nowhere to the win the All-Ireland that year. It was some achievement. He went for big men and got them fitter than probably anyone had ever done before. I knew damn well that if we were to have any chance of catching them, we'd have to be even fitter in 1975," said O'Dwyer.

And so began the great rivalry. Kerry beat Dublin in 1975; Dublin won in 1976 and again in 1977 (although Heffo wasn't in charge that year). The ultimate showdown was in 1978 when treble-seeking Dublin took on Kerry in the final and, after leading by five points in the first half, were blitzed by five goals.

"We had to do something about it that day. If we lost to Dublin again, we'd never be let back into Kerry," said O'Dwyer, who enjoyed further All-Ireland glory at Heffo's expense in 1979, '84 and '85.

"We were great rivals and stood on the same sideline so often over 10 years, but we didn't know each other very well at all. We had played a bit against each in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but our paths crossed a lot more often as managers.

"There was no hugging or small talk before or after games – just a quick shake hands and a nod of the head. That was about it. It wasn't until some years later that we started meeting at golf classics and talked about old times. We both enjoyed that."

Reflecting on Heffernan's career as a player and manager, O'Dwyer said his record on both fronts speaks for itself.

"He was a great player as is well recognised. And what he did for Dublin as a manager will never be forgotten. He brought them back as a mighty force against all the odds in 1974 and kept them there.

"It showed just how good he was with players. He's held in the highest admiration among sports people everywhere and rightly so."

Irish Independent

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