Monday 19 March 2018

Micko's five greatest managerial triumphs

Pat Spillane deputises for injured Kerry captain Mickey ‘Ned’ O’Sullivan to lift the Sam Maguire in 1975 Picture: Connolly Collection/SPORTSFILE
Pat Spillane deputises for injured Kerry captain Mickey ‘Ned’ O’Sullivan to lift the Sam Maguire in 1975 Picture: Connolly Collection/SPORTSFILE
Mikey Sheehy about to take the quick free that found the net for Kerry, leaving Dublin ‘keeper Paddy Cullen red-faced Picture: Jim O'Kelly
Kerry’s Páidí Ó Sé and Kildare manager Mick O’Dwyer in 1998 Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Tommy Doyle and Mick O’Dwyer celebrate their 1986 All-Ireland win Picture: Sportsfile
Laois pair Kevin Fitzpatrick and Damien Delaney celebrate victory over Dublin Picture: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

1 Kerry 2-12 Dublin 0-11 (1975 All-Ireland final) Where it all started: a year after his retirement as a player.

Defending champions Dublin were hot favourites, only to be swept aside by the energy and verve of a young Kerry squad that would go on to become the most successful in GAA history.

Micko: "The mighty Dubs had been beaten by a team of young fellas from Kerry with an average age of just over 22 years. The sense of satisfaction was incredible. Dublin had set the standard but we had raised it. We had taken them on with pace and they couldn't cope."

2 Kerry 5-11 Dublin 0-9 (1978 All-Ireland final)

The scoreline offers no clue to an intriguing background. Dublin were seeking the All-Ireland three-in-row, having recovered from the 1975 setback to establish a dominance over Kerry for the next two seasons. And when Dublin led by five points in the first half, it looked as if those in Kerry who wanted O'Dwyer out would get their way. Instead, inspired by that famous Mikey Sheehy goal from a free, Kerry outscored Dublin by 5-10 to 0-3 from there on to win the first of their four-in-a-row.

Micko: "The sense of relief was overwhelming. It was a vindication for the team, for me and for Gerald McKenna (county chairman), who had stood by me."

3 Kildare 0-13 Kerry 1-9 (1998 All-Ireland semi-final)

Winning the Leinster title for the first time in 42 years was further embellished by a win over Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final. Kildare had beaten the 1995 (Dublin), '96 (Meath) and '97 (Kerry) All-Ireland champions. Beating his native county in such dramatic circumstances on a day when his son, Karl, scored 0-3 for Kildare, made it all the more memorable for O'Dwyer, even if he found it awkward visiting the Kerry dressing-room afterwards.

Micko: "I certainly wasn't gloating. I said my piece and left, hoping they understood how I felt, even if I wasn't quite sure myself."

4 Kerry 2-15 Tyrone 1-10 (1986 All-Ireland final)

Kerry celebrated another three-in-a-row but it was to be the last big act by the history-making squad. A year later, they lost the Munster final replay to Cork at the start of a ten-year wait for their next All-Ireland title. The manner in which Kerry recovered from a 1-8 to 0-4 deficit to beat Tyrone by eight points was truly spectacular, born of a self-belief that knew no limits.

Micko: "I'm often asked if I knew the end was nigh after 1986. Every great empire crumbles eventually. The wear and tear had taken its toll, leaving many of the team going into games carrying a variety of injuries."

5 Laois 0-16 Dublin 0-14 (2003 Leinster semi-final)

Laois still had to beat Kildare in the final to win the Leinster title for the first time since 1957 but the win over Dublin was special as it convinced them they really could make a breakthrough. Dublin were Leinster champions and well fancied but a rejuvenated Laois refused to take 'no' for an answer. This was an altogether different Laois, superbly organised and driven by an intense desire.

Micko: "You've got to be bold and confident when you play Dublin in Croke Park. Stare them straight in the eye; take them on; make them think; give them headaches; disrupt their pattern and, for God's sake, don't allow Hill 16 to become a factor."

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