Micko through the eyes of those who fought him on the battlefields and those who soldiered with him
Compiled by Barry Lennon
Former Dublin full-forward faced O’Dwyer’s Kerry in several All-Ireland finals
We (Dublin) had Kevin Heffernan as manager in the 1970s and the 1980s but Kerry had Micko.
At the time, I believed that we had the best manager in Heffo.
The two of them, though, spurred one another on. They were both a 16th man on their own teams.
Those managers did far more on than any one man on the team, in the extra time they put into analysing the game. And they certainly put in more than any of the other teams were doing in the ‘70s.
What can I say about Micko, only he’s a magnificent manager. I looked up to Heffo first but Micko wasn’t far too far behind in my eyes.
Manager of Galway side to defeat O’Dwyer’s Kildare in 1998 All-Ireland final
When I met him first as manager of Galway, he lived up to everything that I had read about him.
His ambition to win All-Irelands certainly fired me to do the same. And he was gracious in defeat when we beat Kildare in the 1998 (All-Ireland football) final. I remember that best when he came into the dressing room afterwards with such grace.
He gave confidence to his players in his body language. That’s something I tried to model in my own career.
You hadn’t a huge backroom team with him either. Just a loyal group he took with him. He took ultimate responsibility. I followed his lead when he started managing other counties.
Former Laois goalkeeper who played under O’Dwyer from 2003 to 2006
He was the catalyst for Laois players that had been developing in the 1990s. He saw the quality that was in us.
At the very first training session with Micko, he said we would have silverware before he left the team. Within ten months we had won the Leinster Championship.
I remember I had a disagreement with Micko over arrangements on a Thursday ahead of a league game on Sunday. We wanted some specific arrangement to be made and Micko was giving it his usual “ah sure look it, it’ll be fine” and called him up on it. He said back to me: “There’s plenty of f****** goalkeepers around.”
In fairness, who were we to question him anyway?
Captained O’Dwyer’s Kildare team to the 1998 All-Ireland final
It was a dream come true that he came to the county. He brought an extra factor as a manager of that team.
He didn’t do it by bringing drills into the set-up, it was his wit. If there was someone laughing at training, it was most likely Micko.
If there was someone cracking a joke he’d look to join in and find out what it was about rather than find out who it was (to discipline them).
It reminds me what Joe Brolly said: “There is no fun in football at senior level anymore.” Micko certainly brought fun. You looked forward to training with him.
I realise now how fortunate I was to play under Micko. He is a legend.
Wicklow full-forward, All-Star winner and part of O’Dwyer’s management team
We were thrilled to get him in Wicklow. People said why would Micko go to Wicklow?
I remember over 130 people turned up to the first meeting with him and he brought a whole media circus to the county.
As a part of the management team I found it hard to keep it secret before we went public, and to keep it from the press and media.
If he had been in Wicklow in the late 1990s when we had a strong nucleus of a team I think we could have done something. I think we could have threatened in the Leinster Championship.
It’s just a shame the Micko bubble didn’t last longer.
Former Cork centre-back and manager who played against O’Dwyer’s teams
An exceptional man and an enthusiasm that’s unrivalled. Success is an important thing but his enthusiasm was special. Who else would drive up from Waterville in a car three evenings a week to coach Kildare, Wicklow or Laois?
Being from Kerry gave him a start. He codded us in Cork into thinking we were second best. Modelling yourself on him was next to impossible.
My best lesson from him was watching his Wicklow team (in a football Championship qualifier in 2010) who were seven points ahead against Cavan, who were two men down in the second half. He ended up losing that game. I remember thinking if it can go wrong for Micko, it can go wrong for anyone.
Former Armagh manager whose team faced O’Dwyer in 2003 quarter-final
I LOVED watching him as a player and then later a manager.
I asked him to come in and talk to my Armagh team because there was no other man from which you can learn about football.
He had seen it all and you knew it from listening to him. He was the same old Micko, he always was very cute with all of his stories.
One thing he told me in the week leading up to a match was to keep your players fresh, don’t let them get tired before a big championship game. That stayed with me.
He brought a sort of carnival atmosphere anywhere he went, be it Laois, Wicklow and Kildare.
Former Donegal player-manager who led the county to 1992 All-Ireland final
I WOULD often phone him to pick his brains about managerial matters, in so far as he would let you.
He was a great friend as well as being a great Gael and a legend of the game. One thing about Micko was he, like myself, wasn’t a drinker. I’d often meet him for a pot of tea in the Burlington – that was a great tradition of his.
My abiding football memory of the man was watching the routine he put his players through in the 1980s.
It was an incredible level that his Kerry team were at, at that time. That was a fitness routine that had to be seen to be believed.
I’d wish him all the best. I’m sure part of him still wants to manage.
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