Raise the banner: O'Dwyer's tough task in Clare
Mick O’Dwyer always assured us he’d be involved in the game in some form or another, and now, at the age of 76, comes his latest incarnation as an intercounty football manager.
But for a man with already incomparable credentials, the task involved with Clare football presents a uniquely different and difficult challenge – or at least one that will require some repairing of a fractured football scene at senior level.
But according to former Clare manager John Kennedy, who now manages county champions Kilmurry-Ibrickane, and also played under O’Dwyer in the 1980s, the first task facing O’Dwyer is to get all the best players in the county on board.
“From my own time in Clare, what I found was maybe some of the better players didn’t make themselves available, for one reason or another,” says Kennedy.
“And in a county like Clare of course you need all your best players available to you. There’s talent in every county, we all know that, and if you can harness that, drive it on, you will always improve.
“Certainly someone like Mick O’Dwyer coming in, with the track record he has, is bound to bring a new enthusiasm, and I think will rekindle some of the interest that maybe has been lost in some areas.
“Because in my opinion the Clare county team does not reflect the standard of football in the county, the standard of club football. Because it is every competitive. There are seven or eight teams there with never more than a kick of a ball between them. And we’ve seen that ourselves in Kilmurry, both last year and this year.
“It’s not doom or gloom in Clare football by any means, there’s a lot of talent there. But you do need them all playing for the county at the same time.”
Kennedy points to the fact that despite being county champions, now back-to-back, Kilmurry-Ibrickane only had minimal representation on the county team this year: “Marty McMahon and Enda Coughlan were there, and Peter O’Dwyer was on and off during the year, as their goalkeeper. They were the only three involved with the panel all year, but then you had seven or eight involved with the Clare intermediate team. ”
O’Dwyer is on a one-year term, initially, with his backroom team to consist of former Clare forward Ger Keane from Kilkee and Michael Nylon from St Joseph’s, Miltown, with physical trainer Michael Cahill being retained from the previous management team.
Whatever about his sixth coming as an intercounty manager, O’Dwyer is also unique in that he’s been the subject of two biographies – in Manager of the Millennium, published in 2000, and then Blessed and Obsessed, published in 2007.
Towards the end of Manager of the Millennium, O’Dwyer recalled the end of his tenure as Kerry manager, saying he “realised how foolish I was to have stayed on so long”. That was 1989, and only he can truly know what keeps bringing him back for more.