'Micko, we love you' - Kerry salutes a legend

Kerry legend venerated by his county in warm ceremony at Kerry County Council HQ

Mick O’Dwyer in suitably happy pose as he listens to speeches during the civic reception in his honour. Photo by Domnick Walsh
Mick O’Dwyer in suitably happy pose as he listens to speeches during the civic reception in his honour. Photo by Domnick Walsh
Cllr Mike Kennelly presented Mick O’Dwyer with the Sam Maguire Cup which had been borrowed from Dublin for the day.
Ogie Moran talks to his long time friend Micko
Mick O'Dwyer gets a standing ovation from past Kerry players, council staff and members of the public.

Tadhg Evans

To hold a civic reception is the greatest honour Kerry County Council can bestow on anyone - but there are few more deserving of such a privilege than Waterville and Kerry's adored Mick O'Dwyer.

In a county more abundantly gifted than any other by way of great Gaelic football managers and players, 'Micko' is among the few recognised as both. The reception held for him at County Buildings on Monday was of a celebratory mood not untypical of O'Dwyer's decades within the game he loved and mastered, decades which extended as far as the '10s to his provision of his unmatched expertise to Waterville's under-14s.

A short introduction by Emcee Owen O'Shea saw control of proceedings flow to Cathaoirleach Councillor John Sheehan, who spoke of his privilege to greet a man who won 12 All-Irelands and 23 Munster titles as a player and manager with Kerry from the 1950s to the 1980s.

"He experienced exhilarating highs and despairing lows - and, thanks be to God, there were more highs than lows," Councillor Sheehan said ahead of pointing out that O'Dwyer was manager when both Kildare and Laois ended long droughts without provincial titles in 1998 and 2003 respectively - trophies neither team has won since his departures.

"He then took the reins at Wicklow, who had not only never won a provincial Championship - they had not won a Championship game at Croke Park," the Cathaoirleach added of an unwanted statistic "Micko" put right with a win over Kildare in 2008, months after guiding the Garden county, infamously barren where Gaelic football is concerned, to the secondary Championship, the Tommy Murphy Cup.

Cllr Mike Kennelly had proposed the civic reception, and upon taking to the microphone he was quick to remember his brother, Tim, who won five All-Irelands under O'Dwyer's astonishing term as manager.

"Micko, we love you every bit as much as you love us," Cllr Kennelly said. "I'm here today not on my own behalf but on behalf of the people of Kerry, your extended family. You are Kerry, of Kerry - you are one of us.

"My brother was made into a man by you and captained Kerry to win Sam in 1979…my mother was always saying to him, 'If you don't behave, Dwyer'll have you killed'…she used give Tim steak for breakfast, at Micko's request, while the rest of us got a runny egg. The only ones better fed than Tim were my father's greyhounds".

Following further tributes by Kerry County Council CEO Moira Murrell, County Board Chairperson Tim Murphy pointed to the aptness of O'Dwyer, a four-in-a-row-winning manager, in having previously presented Kerry's four-in-a-row-winning minor team of 2017 with their fourth consecutive All-Ireland medals.

Equally fitting was the fact that Micko's oldest friend, Sam Maguire, was present, and Murphy did his bit for the light spirit of the afternoon in telling of smuggling "Sam" from the Croke Park Hotel with the help of Dublin CEO John Costello and Kerry legend Mikey Sheehy, and down to Kerry in a refuse bag to hide it from a public who would have been otherwise overly fascinated.

"I'll assure you I won't keep you long," O'Dwyer said at the outset of his own speech, during which he offered words of consolation to soften the hurt caused by Kerry's heavy National League defeat in Croke Park in recent day.

"If there was one thing I hated, it was the National League," he said. "In Kerry, we win All-Irelands - and to Hell with the National League!

"I used love coming in to Killarney and to see fellas suffering," he added of his management days, prompting another burst of laughter, before saluting the many former players present, with particular reference to Eoin "Bomber" Liston's love of football - and, "Micko" claims, Smarties and Mars bars.

"I'm thrilled to see 'the Bomber' here, who spent many, many years in Waterville with me - and they were tough years, I can assure you!" O'Dwyer said.

Festivities came to a perfect conclusion as friends and family crowded in for a photo with a legend and Sam Maguire - a trophy O'Dwyer helped bring on 12 occasions to the county that wins and thirsts it most.