Micko ... the original Special One

And the mind rambles back with the news last week that the real ‘Special One’ has finally decided to vacate the training ground; vacate the dressingroom and vacate the sideline.

And the mind rambles back with the news last week that the real ‘Special One’ has finally decided to vacate the training ground; vacate the dressingroom and vacate the sideline.

Mick O’Dwyer, at the ripe age of 77 has confirmed that he will manage no more.

It was back at the county final of 1990 when Micko arrived in Lilywhite land. Naas and Clane were about to do battle on a beautiful sunny day. The stands were full, the terraces were full with lots supporters from the competing clubs but also an extra element to the day was the promise that Micko would be attending.

He walked in to his seat that day to a standing ovation. The Kildare supporters saw Micko as the Messiah. They saw him as the man who would (hopefully) lead the Lilies out of the barren desert, trophyless since being crowned Leinster champions way back to 1956.

The pressure was on but that was nothing new to Micko. It is fair to say he fell in love with Kildare instantly. He loved the passion Kildare had for football. He loved the people and he loved the players.

I can recall talking to him after Naas had upset Clane on that final day, ending the county town’s long barren spell (1932) , and as usual Micko was in full flow.

“That was as good a game of football that you’d see in any county,” he ushered to the local and national hacks, adding: “and you can include Kerry in that.” He picked out one of my own great favourites for special mention. “And wasn’t that some game that McDonald (Johnny) lad had out there, superb, as good as you’d see.”

Micko and Johnny of course crossed many swords and pathways in the coming years and while Johnny at times practically broke his heart, at the back of it all Micko had great time for the Naas man.

It was a golden era for Kildare when Micko was at the helm. The crowds flocked to see the Lilies reaching the National League final in 1992, only whetted the appetite and added to the hype and expectation.

Losing to Louth in the first round of the Leinster Championship on that forgetable day in Drogheda was probably the greatest disappointment early on but Micko persevered.

Great and all as Micko was he could not perform miracles and despite getting close, that illusive Leinster
 title failed to come our way.

Micko departed for a couple of years before returning and making an instant impression in 1997. Hands up all who can recall those memorable games against Meath that in the end went the Royals way.

But the seeds had been sown that year and twelve months later Kildare were back, not only capturing Leinster but going all the way to the All Ireland final, a final that to this day brings memories mixed with pride and absolute heartbreak.

Two years later Glenn and the boys were kings of Leinster once again.

Memories, memories.

Micko, of course, had his critics within the county (nothing new in Kildare) which in many respects was amazing. Amazing when you think that Kildare had won sweet feck all for 42 years before he came and sweet feck all (despite some great campaigns with McGeeney) since he left, to this day there are some who still complain.

However, for the vast majority of Kildare folk, Micko was and will always be the ‘Special One’, Micko was the man who led us out of the barren desert.

Enjoy your retirement Micko, no one deserves it more. You will never be forgotten in Kildare!

-Tommy Callaghan