Micko to bow out
MICK O'Dwyer's stint with Wicklow is set to end after this year's championship.
Now in his fourth season, he's attempting to steer them into the Leinster semi-final for the first time since 1995 when they take on Westmeath in Tullamore on Sunday. But Arthur French, who has been Micko's right-hand man on his latest adventure, says that irrespective of how the season develops, it will be his final year in Wicklow.
"That's my understanding of the situation. He felt he couldn't leave after last year's great run through the qualifiers but whatever happens this year I don't think he will be going back. He has done an enormous amount for Wicklow football and put every bit of energy, commitment and experience he has into it but there's a limit to what any man can keep giving.
"It has been a very enjoyable time for all of us and hopefully there's a lot more to come this year. Right now, the only item on the agenda is beating Westmeath and keeping the championship campaign going for as long as possible but after that Wicklow will be looking for a new manager," said French, who together with Kevin O'Brien, Martin Coleman and Jimmy Whittle are O'Dwyer's selectors.
News of O'Dwyer's impending departure will come as a disappointment in Wicklow, who have enjoyed their most exciting era for years under his guidance.
He led them to a Tommy Murphy Cup victory in 2007 and followed up by presiding over their first senior championship win at Croke Park a year later when they shocked Kildare. As a Division 4 team, Wicklow were not allowed compete in the All-Ireland qualifiers that year.
However, last season was the best in Wicklow's championship history when, after beating Longford and losing to Westmeath in extra-time in Leinster they embarked on a memorable run through the qualifiers where they beat Ulster trio, Fermanagh, Cavan and Down on successive weekends before losing a fourth-round tie to Kildare by four points.
Wicklow made an impressive start to this year's campaign, beating Carlow by 10 points in the opening round of the Leinster championship and head for Tullamore as 5/6 favourites to beat Westmeath (6/5) and book a semi-final place against Kildare or Louth.
This is O'Dwyer's 34th season in senior inter-county management having spent 15 with Kerry (1975-89), 10 with Kildare (1991-94 and 1997-2002), four with Laois (2003-2006) and four with Wicklow (2007-2010).
Westmeath, whose only win from 16 league and championship games since the start of 2009 was against Wicklow in last year's Leinster quarter-final, have Dessie Dolan and Denis Glennon back on board but will be without experienced defenders, Kieran Gavin, John Keane and Derek Heavin who are no longer on the panel.
New manager, Pat Flanagan, who replaced Brendan Hackett after the league, has had only six weeks to assess his options but will have picked up some hints about the squad's strengths and weaknesses from challenge games against Clare, Mayo and Dublin.