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'We were so close I felt sick. For two months after I never left Waterville': Micko on the pain of '82

In a new documentary, Mick O’Dwyer reveals that Seamus Darby’s goal still torments him 35 years later.

KINGDOM LEGEND MICK O’Dwyer says Seamus Darby’s last-gasp goal that denied Kerry the five-in-a-row in 1982 is a moment that still torments him 35 years on.

Mick O'Dwyer Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

O’Dwyer’s life is the subject of the excellent documentary, Micko, which airs Monday night on RTÉ One.

The 82-year-old speaks candidly about the pain of that defeat to Offaly, the death of his wife in 2012 and how old age has robbed him of the ability to speak on some days.

“I think of it at least once a week,” he says of Offaly’s All-Ireland final win in ’82. “It’s still implanted in my mind.

“A little nudge made history. If you were well beaten, you’d be happy enough. We were so close, I felt sick. For two months after, I never left Waterville. I stayed in the house, put the tape (of the game) on, had a look at it and just saying to myself, ‘Pity we didn’t do this, pity we didn’t do that.’

“It’s like a death in the family, if that’s possible. We were so near and so close it was unreal.”

O’Dwyer speaks about his early days in charge of Kerry in ’75, an All-Ireland winning season where they once trained for almost a solid month without a break.

“In 1975 I took over and I made up my mind I would build a team with youth from the word go. A team I would have for at least 10 to 12 years.

“You see all these young fellas, they wanted to get on the Kerry team and they worked ever so hard. We did 27 consecutive nights without a break and not one player missed a training session.”

MIck O'Dwyer Source: INPHO

“We weren’t great pals I can assure you,” he says of Dublin manager Kevin Heffernan, who delivered All-Irelands in ’76 and ’77.

“There was no big relationship between the two of us. We rarely shook hands or any of that stuff.”

It was the discovery of Eoin ‘Bomber’ Liston in the winter of ’77 that O’Dwyer credits as “the missing link” and the catalyst for the unprecedented four-in-a-row that was to follow.

“He was a nice, soft, pudgy little fella when I got him,” says O’Dwyer. “He was a great man for a Mars bar and a packet of Smarties, and by God he had the sign of it. But he lost about five stone weight, night after night here in Waterville training. It made a big difference to the team. It was the missing link, I think.”

Mikey Sheehy’s audacious chipped goal in the ’78 final win over Dublin was, according to O’Dwyer, the goal that “changed the history of Kerry football.”

He also declared that Kerry team as the greatest of all-time: ”I’ve been around over 80 years now and I’ve seen a lot of players in my time and 15 of those men that were on the field together, I don’t believe you could get better at any period, at any time.

“It wasn’t because I was managing; it was because they were the best.”

On the decision by Kerry to seek sponsorship by adidas in ’82, he says: “We made a decision that it was time the players get a little bit out of it. We made an agreement with adidas that they give £20,000 to a fund which we were organising to go on a world tour.”

The Kerry team 1982 Source: INPHO

The GAA subsequently fined the Kerry county board £500 for wearing the adidas gear.

“We had £20,000 so it was a good deal,” grins O’Dwyer.

On another occasion, they received £15,000 for taking a squad picture with a washing machine.

“That was the start of sponsorship by counties. Croke Park were going on over that as well, but I didn’t give a damn. It was amazing, it was a forerunner for many things to come after.”

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In a moving segment on his wife Mary’s passing in 2012, he says: “My God, you’d miss somebody like that, that was always there. No matter where you travelled, she was there when you came home.”

In his later years O’Dwyer has lost much of the use of his left hand, which means he can’t play his accordion or golf anymore.

“I could still catch a high ball if it was coming. I have a bit of a tough time putting on the stockings in the morning, but that’s what age does to you. You can’t escape.”

Mick O'Dwyer looks on Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

On his declining voice, he explains: “I was an awful man for roaring and shouting and encouraging players on the pitch. It’s the one thing that affects me quite a bit.

“It comes and goes, some days I can’t speak at all, at all. It’s a curse, old age. I always say that youth is wasted on the young. That’s the way in life, we all came in the same way and guaranteed we’ll all go out the same way.”

He fondly describes the last team he trained to victory, the Waterville U14s he led to the South Kerry Division 4 league title in 2016.

“I said when that happened the wheel is gone right around now so that was the last team I managed.

“Unless I manage one up above, if there is football to be played there. We’ll wait and see.”

  • Micko, RTÉ One, Monday 9.35pm.

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