LONG before Harry Murphy ended what looked like a lifetime on the Rathnew sideline with victory over Baltinglass in the Dunne Cup final last Sunday, his thoughts had already turned to the fresh, bigger challenges which await him in the new year.
Murphy was appointed Wicklow manager in late August, but since Rathnew were still involved in the county championship he had to maintain a hands-on approach with his club while planning long term for his county.
Becoming an inter-county boss for the first time is always a daunting experience, but even more so when your predecessor happens to be the GAA's most successful manager.
Having decided to shop local, Wicklow simply couldn't ignore his record with Rathnew. He appreciates the confidence shown in him, but recognises that he will be under immediate scrutiny.
"It was always going to be that way for whoever took over from Micko. He brought a great buzz to Wicklow and made people realise there was a team worth following. The task now is to build on that," explains Murphy
He will begin that from Division 4, a grouping from which Wicklow failed to escape in the O'Dwyer era, but then the championship was always his priority. It was a very ambitious approach, given that Wicklow had never won a senior championship game in Croke Park prior to O'Dwyer's arrival.
His big summer plans produced some great days, including a Leinster championship win over Kildare in 2008, qualifier wins over Fermanagh, Cavan and Down in 2009 and a qualifier draw with Armagh this year. However, promotion to Division 3 stubbornly eluded them.
Murphy will now place a real emphasis on the league, believing that it would be of huge benefit to Wicklow to get out of Division 4 and test themselves at a higher level over the spring months. It worked for Sligo, Antrim and Tipperary in recent years and Murphy reckons it would benefit Wicklow too.
Murphy coached Rathnew to seven county titles since taking over from Moses Coffey for the 2000 season. Rathnew had won four successive titles by then and added another four in the first four years of the new Millennium. Murphy also steered them to Leinster club glory 10 years ago and is optimistic his experience of Wicklow football will help him adjust quickly.
"When you see how these lads performed against Armagh, you realise how good they can be. Unfortunately, they lost the replay, but you have to remember that Armagh are a Division 1 team. I'm looking forward to the year ahead. It's new territory for me, but I bel- ieve I'm ready for it," says Murphy, who will have Gavin Wynne and Mick Murray as his co-selectors.