Mick O'Dwyer: 'Joe Lennon one of the great players of his or any generation'
Mick O'Dwyer has led the tributes to Joe Lennon, declaring him "one of the great players of his or any generation" after the three-time All-Ireland winner with Down passed away on Wednesday.
After collecting Celtic Crosses in 1960 and 1961, Lennon (above), who was 81, captained Down to Sam Maguire in 1968 with victory over a Kerry side featuring O'Dwyer, and his old rival acclaimed him for "coaching the real way".
"Joe was one of the great players of his or any generation and Kerry just couldn't handle Down at the time. We always found them a tough nut to crack and he was one of the main reasons for that," O'Dwyer said.
"He was an exceptional player, phenomenally fit and versatile switching from half-back to midfield while he put a lot of thought into coaching. He was really the man who started to look at coaching in the real way.
"In football terms, he was a visionary; he looked at things differently and was way ahead of his time. When you sat down with him you always ended up talking football, that was his passion.
"I'll never forget in 1968 he made a prediction that Kerry were 20 years behind but lo and behold we went on to win 18 titles in that time. I often had it out with him over that after."
Former Down manager Pete McGrath also praised Lennon, believing he was "at the heart of the football revolution" started by the Mourne men in the '60s .
"Joe was a radical thinker in many ways. He put an awful lot of thought into the science of Gaelic football. His coaching manuals were so instrumental in bringing Gaelic football forward," he said.
"He was a man who was a lifelong learner and was a tremendous example to all."
GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail hailed Lennon, a former analyst with 'The Sunday Game', as a "pioneering figure totally immersed in Gaelic football."