Manager aiming to continue progress
GAELIC GAMES MARK KENNEDY TALKS TO MICK O’DWYER
MICK O’DWYER is about to start his third year as manager of Wicklow’s county footballers.
His first two years at the helm saw Wicklow make steady progress on the football front, winning the Tommy Murphy Cup in his first year and winning their first championship game in Croke Park in his second year.
Not surprisingly, therefore, G.A.A. bosses in the county were anxious to secure his continued services as manager when his two year term ended in the summer.
G.A.A. fans throughout the county as well as the players have taken the Kerry maestro to their hearts since his arrival and his presence has injected a new buzz and excitement in the football scene in the Garden County.
Under new dictats from Croke Park, however, he will not be able to commence training sessions with his players until the new year but in the meantime he is hoping to get in a few trial games for his team.
‘That’s about as much as we can do until the New Year’ he says. ‘We will be looking at new players around the county and we will certainly be bringing in some new blood,’ he says. ‘We have quite a few in mind and, now that that the county championships are over, we’ll be making decisions on that front.’
‘This is our third year but I do not say that it is time to deliver big time. There has been constant improvement since I came here. When the championship comes around, we will be hoping to do even better than this year. That’s what it’s all about, keeping the momentum there and moving on.
‘In 2008 we had a satisfying year and with a bit of luck we could have beaten Laois. As you know, they only beat us by two points and James Stafford hit the crossbar and had that shot been a couple of inches lower we would have won that game.
‘We have got a good panel of players, we have a good chance. We hope to get a few new players from this year’s championship and that will make a difference. We need a few fresh faces.
Asked about his hopes and ambitions for 2009, Micko had this to say:
O’Byrne Cup in January: ‘We will play in those games and introduce a few new players and see if they are good enough. It will be a good testing ground.
League (February to April): ‘We would hope to do pretty well in the league but the championship is the big thing at the end of the day. And that’s what we’ll be building to all the way through.
‘It’s true we would like to get out of the basement division four. But some of the teams in division four - Sligo were Connacht champions a few years ago - are good quality teams, so I don’t think it makes much difference where you are in the league.
‘It’s all about building a team for the championship. And we will be doing that throughout both competitions - the O’Byrne Cup and league.
Leinster championship: ‘ We won one championship game this year and we would be hoping to win at least two matches next year. And hopefully get to a Leinster final.
‘We were not too far off a Leinster final this year. If we had gotten over Laois, we would have had a right crack at Wex- ford and anything might have happened. We could have been in a Leinster final. With a bit of luck, we could get there.’
All-Ireland Qualifiers: Mick O’Dwyer has welcomed the fact that division four teams will once again participate in the All-Ireland qualifiers in 2009.
Probably Croke Park’s severest critic over their exclusion in the first place, Micko said: ‘Sure it’s going to be great that we are back in the qualifiers again. It’s a pity we did not have it this year; but that’s water under the bridge.
‘It’s coming back next year and that is good. We are not considering qualifiers at this stage. We want to win in Leinster first. And if there are to be qualifiers, we would be hoping to do well.
Tommy Murphy Cup: ‘The first year of this competition was great, there’s no doubt about that. It built a team for us and helped us win in Croke Park which was great.
‘But it served no purpose at the end of the day. Winning or losing you were going nowhere at the end of it.
‘Until we won it, there was a trip to the United States and then they cut that out completely.
‘They gave the county €20,000 or something - it would hardly take you across the road. There was no incentive for people to do well in it, to be honest.
‘If the winners of the Tommy Murphy Cup were allowed in to the championship through a backdoor system, it would have been a great competition.
‘Maybe, now that that the back door is there, the Tommy Murphy Cup is something that could be introduced again.’
Mick O’Dwyer celebrates Wicklow’s championship win over Kildare in Croke Park last May.