Tuesday 21 November 2017

O'Dwyer saddened by Laois and Kildare's fall from grace

Mick O'Dwyer's Kildare team of 1998 celebrate their Leinster title victory. Photo: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
Mick O'Dwyer's Kildare team of 1998 celebrate their Leinster title victory. Photo: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Memories of previous times when he presided over glory days for both counties will come flooding back to Mick O'Dwyer when he sits down to watch this evening's Kildare v Laois Leinster quarter-final on TV.

Much has changed for the pair since the era when O'Dwyer led Kildare to a first Leinster title for 42 years in 1998 and later to the All-Ireland final, where they lost to Galway. Two years later, Kildare won another Leinster crown.

Having spent ten seasons (over two stints) with Kildare, he left in 2002, only to head straight for Laois, whom he steered to a first Leinster title in 57 years in '03. They also reached three All-Ireland quarter-finals in his four years there.

Kildare are now bound for Division 3, while Laois, who haven't reached the Leinster semi-final since '09, escaped relegation from Division 2 by a point this year.

"It's sad to see how far they both have slipped. It's especially disappointing to see Kildare on their way to Division 3 because it won't be easy to get out of there," said O'Dwyer.

"It's a marvellous football county, but maybe the hard work wasn't put in at underage level to build on the interest that was there in the good years. It's very hard to make progress without a good underage set-up."

Many of the Laois team that O'Dwyer guided to Leinster senior success 12 years ago were products of excellent underage teams, and the run continued until 2007.

However, Laois haven't won a Leinster minor title since then.

"I don't know what has gone wrong in Laois. They used to have great underage structures," he said.

"Everyone was looking in to see how they were doing it, but that has stopped for some reason and the senior team is suffering as a result."


O'Dwyer is also very surprised by Meath's decline which, when coupled with the drop in Kildare and Laois, has allowed Dublin to drive well clear ahead in Leinster.

"It shouldn't be like that. Meath, Kildare and Laois should be doing a lot better," he said.

"It's unusual that nearly all the Leinster counties except Dublin are going through a slow time. There's only one way out - hard work."

Laois are marginal favourites this evening but O'Dwyer regards it as such a close rivalry that it's pointless assessing it on previous results or recent form.

He twice managed Kildare to Championships wins over Laois in 1997 and 1998 before turning the tables on the Lilywhites as Laois boss in '03 and '05.

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