'Players today don't have time to get married, let alone play football while running a farm'

Mick on the touchline with Kildare in 2002
Mick on the touchline with Kildare in 2002
Mick O'Dwyer

“Players today don’t have time to get married, let alone play inter-county football while running a farm,” maintains Mick O’Dwyer.

Sitting in the ‘Legend’s Lounge’ at his family run Sea Lodge Hotel, in Waterville, the father-of-four says the association has evolved at an “unbelievable rate”.

“In my time playing there was quite a lot of farmers but it changed all of a sudden. You need more time now so teachers are very prevalent in the game. It’s about total commitment even in the weaker counties, ” he said.

Mick has also been struck by the current emphasis on gym work and supplements.

“The team we had in the 1970s and 80s did all their work in the fields. They became giants of men. Very few were doing gym work. I never did gym work myself,” says Micko who did most of his own hard training in the sand dunes of Waterville. “I think they’ve gone overboard completely, ‘tis all gym work now. It is a game of skill — practice with a football is the most important thing. Backs and forwards can make all the difference,” says Mick who believes players deserve better supports to balance the level of commitment they must give to today’s game.

“Every part of the game now is professional with the exception of the players and they are generating all the revenue. It isn’t fair — players should be treated properly by giving them better mileage for travelling and maybe giving them university scholarships,” he said.

Micko spoke of talks he had with Mayo county board about coming in as manager of the seniors in the 1990s.

“They had a good team coming at the time, I think myself and Arthur French could have won an All-Ireland with them alright. I was convinced Mayo was the one county in Ireland we could have won an All-Ireland with because they had the material, they’ve had great material for the last 15 years.

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“There’s no curse, it’s not about curses, it’s about hard work and belief. I think they might be just over the hill at the moment. They had their chance for the last three years, they could have won an All Ireland. At the same time they’re not too far away,” he said.

Despite his glory days as a player and manager with the Kingdom, he says Kildare captured his heart. “I had more enjoyment managing Kildare than I did through anything in my life. Wonderful people and a mad county.

“They were cutting up sheets and pillow covers making flags. It was unreal what went on there, in every town and village you went to there were flags flying, in every single one of them, amazing,” he recalls.

He admits he was always strict with his teams. “I was tough but I never asked players to do what I didn’t do myself, I trained with my club until I was 45 and did all the sprints and the runs. If there was none of the forwards fit to play on any given night I would fill in as well. I love the game,” he said.

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