Furlong praises Micko for giving Wicklow beliefto take on the big guns
SEANIE Furlong, the two-goal hero of Wicklow's Round 2 qualifier draw in Armagh on Saturday night, spoke yesterday about the belief Mick O'Dwyer has given the Garden County team.
O'Dwyer, who was widely expected to retire after the match had Wicklow lost, belied his 75 years as he revelled in the drama that took the match into extra-time.
Indeed, it was Division 1 side Armagh, and not Division 4 Wicklow, who had to grab life-saving equalising scores at the end of normal time and extra-time to bring the game to a replay on Saturday at Aughrim.
Furlong, the 23-year-old Kiltegan club player who came on to the Wicklow senior panel in 2008, says the benefits of O'Dwyer's reign are to be seen in the team's performances.
"Micko is brilliant. He's been around and trained the best and really knows his stuff, as you'd expect from a man of his experience," he enthused.
"He's the only Wicklow manager I've played under, so I don't know what it was like before him, but once he came and won the Tommy Murphy Cup, all the players wanted to train and play for the county.
"There used to be that old club rivalry, particularly between Rathnew and Baltinglass, but not any more. Everyone's training hard and we believe in ourselves.
"Micko will talk one-on-one with a lot of players, and he's very good at telling you what he wants, so you know what you have to do.
"It's all about team-work and it starts with the forwards, who have to keep pressurising defenders.
"When you don't have the ball, you have to get in your tackles, and then we have to try and take our scoring chances.
"Our wing-forwards JP Dalton and Nicky Mernagh were a great example of that on Saturday. They were all over the pitch tackling and then getting back up front to help the attack."
Despite his 2-4 contribution, including goals in the 68th and 86th minutes, Furlong was measured and practical about the performance against Armagh.
He wasn't overjoyed just to get the draw in the Athletic Grounds and nor were his team-mates.
That alone illustrates the confidence in the Wicklow squad. Now the challenge is to match that display and improve on it in Aughrim.
"Before the Armagh game we just said to ourselves if we can play like we did against Sligo and get into them early, we've a chance," he said. "It was a great performance but at the end of it the players felt we left it behind us a bit."
O'Dwyer wasn't interested in Wicklow just giving a good show and bowing out gracefully.
The Wicklow boss said: "I told them I wanted more and more effort from every player on the pitch. Some of them were looking on when they should have been getting stuck in, but there was no such thing as losing heart."
Saturday night will require another huge effort, as Armagh boss Paddy O'Rourke is sure to want his players to come out and fight like wounded animals to claim their place in the next round, where Tyrone await the winners.
Furlong has no doubt the Ulster side still present a formidable obstacle.
"We'll certainly be up for the challenge and we'll give it a good rattle in Aughrim, but Armagh will be as strong as ever," he said.
"They're a Division 1 team and Wicklow are Division 4, but we'll certainly be up for it. I would say there won't be more than a kick of a ball between us at the end."