Micko is now managing his local club's U14 team. Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Mick O'Dwyer on 3 great years with Laois and why 'Kerry will be there or thereabouts'

Micko thinks that Laois are unfairly criticised, and that Eamon Fitzmaurice is doing a great job with Kerry.

MICK O’DWYER KNOWS exactly what it takes to win with both Kerry and Laois – not to mention Kildare, Wicklow, his club and his province.

The man who managed Kerry to eight All-Ireland titles and 11 Munster crowns, is more than satisfied with the job the current incumbent is doing in the Kingdom’s hot seat.

“There’s no need to put anyone in there, Eamonn Fitzmaurice is doing a great job.”

The current senior team have come under stiff criticism from a number of former Kerry greats this year, but nonetheless O’Dwyer is optimistic about the county’s future.

“I tell you the man that’s there at the moment, he’s doing bloody well with what he has. He wasn’t far away last year and they’ll be there or thereabouts again this year.

“They have a very good minor team this year as well, and then Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne won the Hogan cup; so football isn’t all that bad in Kerry.”

Kerry begin their campaign for a first All-Ireland title in five years this weekend against Clare, and O’Dwyer has some concerns.

“I think they’re going through a bad patch at the moment, but they’re missing the two best forwards in the country in my opinion; the ‘Gooch’ and O’Donoghue.

“The two of them are injured and both will be out for a while. No county can afford to lose two players of that calibre.”

Mick O'Dwyer 13/8/2006 O'Dwyer kicked every ball in his time with Laois. Andrew Paton / INPHO Andrew Paton / INPHO / INPHO

‘Micko’ also managed the Laois team from 2003 until 2006, reaching three consecutive Leinster finals in a period he describes as “three really enjoyable, great years”.

“We got to three Leinster finals and we won one and we should have won the other two as well. Dublin (2005) beat us by two points and Westmeath beat us by two points (2004).

“There’s always great talent coming through in Laois, great young lads every year. The minor teams of late haven’t been as good as the ones maybe previously but overall they’re always producing top footballers.

“You have a huge club there in Portlaoise too. Just the one club there in the town – that makes a big difference – and they bring through a lot of good players.”

Before the Kerryman’s appointment in 2003, Laois had not won a provincial title in 57 years – so what was the magic formula?

“What I did was no different whatsoever, and it’s the same procedure everywhere I go and manage. It’s about building strength during the winter months and then all football during the summer months.”

Pauric Clancy celebrates with the Leinster trophy Munnelly and Pauric Clancy celebrate in 2003. INPHO INPHO

“It was a friend of mine actually, Declan O’Loughlin, who wasn’t involved at the time but himself and his brother down there persuaded me to come to Laois and I was kind of free at the time and I said OK.

“So that’s how we got to go to Laois, and then Jim McDonald, an uncle of Beano [Brian McDonald], he got involved and that’s how I happened to manage Laois.”

In the ten years prior to O’Dwyer’s time in Laois, the county had won two All-Ireland minor titles, plus another in 2003. Since his departure they’ve won a minor and two U21 provincial titles, as well as producing players such as Colm Begley, Zach Tuohy and Conor Meredith; all three catching the eye of AFL selectors. So why so little success lately?

“Laois always have a good brand of football, a good attacking brand. Them lads, it’s unfair (the belief that Laois are hard to manage). They’re as commited as any county I’ve been involved in.

“They played very well against Wicklow in the first round, and they gave Dublin a great game for three quarters. So they’re up there in the top eight in the country I’d say at the moment.”

Billy Sheehan and Ross Munnelly get away from Brian Flanagan Mick brought Kerry native Billy Sheehan to Laois. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

The now Waterville U14 club manager – club championship winning manager as of last month – has fond memories of working with two Laois players who remain within the current set up.

“I would of course keep in touch with them all. Billy Sheehan would be a great friend of mine, as well and being a Kerryman, that’s how he went there.

“He was playing with Emo in Laois and yeah he was a good footballer even when he left Kerry, he was a fella that never got a fair break in the county. He made it in Laois though and he’s still playing well for them.”

“Ross Munnelly has been an exceptional player all his life, and I’d never seen a young fella like him. I mean morning, noon and night, his whole life is about football and that’s why he’s so good, he puts the work in.”

After the defeat to Dublin, next up for Laois in Saturday’s Round 1 qualifier is Fermanagh, who in 2009 became the last county for O’Dwyer to defeat as a manager. The Waterville man will be watching keenly to see how his “friends” get on.

This article was originally published at 07.00 and then updated at 12.00.

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