Monday 19 February 2018

Breheny Beat: Galway must get Micko to go west

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

HERE'S what Mick O'Dwyer wrote in late 2007: "If Kerry and Dublin are the two really big glamour counties, Galway is also a scene that would interest most ambitious managers. I was linked to Galway before taking over Wicklow in 2006 but nothing came of it.

"I have to admit I would have fancied Galway, had the opportunity arisen at the right time.

"They play an attractive brand of open football which I like and would enjoy coaching. There's a natural rhythm to their style which has remained in place over the years.

"With the exception of Kerry, no county produces more eye-catching football than Galway when they're going well. There's a natural flow to their approach, which any coach would love provided he believed in stylish, constructive play, as I most certainly do."

So, there you have it. The greatest manager the GAA has ever known acknowledged four years ago that he would like to manage the third most successful county on the All-Ireland football honours list.

Since then, O'Dwyer has presided over what has been the most exciting period in Wicklow football history whereas Galway have continued to lose altitude since winning the 2008 Connacht title.

The last three championships have been bleak, returning just three victories -- against London and Sligo and New York last year. It's scarcely top-three material.

This season was their worst at senior level for many years, yielding just one win from nine league and championship games. They dropped to Division 2 and extended a dreadful championship run where their only victory against non-Connacht opposition since 2001 was against Louth in '04.

Truly a shocking decline for a county that won two All-Irelands in four seasons between 1998 and 2001.

Sligo have had a similarly dismal season, also returning just one win from nine games, leaving them joint 32nd with Galway on the overall performance rankings for 2011. Only Kilkenny have a worse record than the western pair.

Now, when Kilkenny are all that keeps you off the lowest rung, you would imagine it would concentrate minds, especially in Galway, a county which thinks of itself in All-Ireland terms every year.

So what would you do if you were in charge of Galway football right now? It's pretty obvious isn't it? Galway are in desperate need of inspiration and a man who provides it with the sheer force of his personality is available.

If O'Dwyer isn't approached by Galway, the county's supporters should regard it as a crime against the maroon-and-white. He has identified Galway as a top-three county in terms of managerial attractiveness and since both they and he favour an open brand of football, they are a natural fit for each other.

Galway are not as bad as they looked this year and with some promising young talent to emerge off the All-Ireland U-21 winning side, the timing couldn't be better for Micko's arrival.

O'Dwyer's record everywhere he has managed is so convincing that if Galway's power-brokers can't see the compelling logic in approaching him, they might usefully consider if, in fact, they are serving the best interest of the game in the county.

Apart altogether from establishing records with Kerry which will never be broken, O'Dwyer raised the Kildare and Laois tides to levels not experienced for decades, and his stint with Wicklow saw them compile better championship results than ever before.

The argument that changing manager for the second time in 12 months makes no sense in any county doesn't hold up in Galway's case.

Joe Kernan's departure last year was prompted by conditions imposed on him which he was never going to accept. Quite why they were introduced baffled Galway supporters, all of whom are now even more bewildered after another miserable season.

They are not loading all the blame onto Tomas O Flatharta's shoulders; nor should they since Galway's decline was in evidence long before his arrival.

However, he didn't succeed in arresting the slide -- indeed if anything it accelerated.

Galway have absolutely nothing to lose by approaching Micko but -- like Kerry, Kildare, Laois and Wicklow -- they have much to gain.

"Any manager worthy of the name would have to be excited by the prospect of taking over in Kerry, Dublin or Galway, in that order," wrote O'Dwyer in 2007.

The big question is whether Galway will recognise the glorious opportunity that now presents itself. Really though, how could they miss it?

Irish Independent

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