Happy birthday Mick O'Dwyer!
The great Waterville man won four All-Irelands as a player for Kerry, before managing his county to an astonishing eight All-Ireland titles. From there, he would go on to bring Leinster glory to Kildare and Laois, and even a Tommy Murphy Cup to Wicklow. He was recently voted by Balls.ie readers as the greatest Irish sporting manager of all time.
Today, he turns 85, and in celebration of his birthday, we offer you four incredible Micko stories that you may not have heard before. In early 2018, RTE aired a wonderful documentary on the man produced by Loosehorse. The country fell in love with Micko all over again watching the film, which had a lot of ground to cover in an hour. While it did touch on some of his roguish elements, there was just too much success to cover to dwell on it too much.
Here are four great Mick O'Dwyer stories that didn't make it into the documentary yet still go to the heart of the man, whom Tomás O'Sé calls "one of the finest rogues we ever produced".
Mick O'Dwyer Stories:
The Butter Crisis
Micko had an uncanny talent for squeezing out of a tight corner, football, financial, or otherwise. For example, during a butter crisis of decades gone past...
They [the Kerry players] drove in their cars to National League games through every winter, and O'Dwyer would always leave as if he were making a getaway. Hurry, hurry. Top speed to Waterville where he would have a band playing in his ballroom every Sunday night.
Sometimes on the way home he would stop in a small town and point out a car and ask one of the players to get out and drive the car to Waterville. Once, during a butter crisis which led to rationing and a voucher system, they stopped somewhere in Meath and O'Dwyer disappeared into a house.
Five minutes later he reappeared, looking for help, carrying large boxes of butter to the boot of the car.
Source - Dublin v Kerry, published by Penguin.
Thanks to John Gilhooley who shared this on Twitter. It is recalled by Listowel's Pat Healy.
Listowel were playing in a North Kerry league final in Ballylongford back in the 80s and I had a stormer from wing-back.
Got about 3-3, and we won, beat Duagh. On the Monday we were down in Tim Kennelly's pub, well on it, and Horse [Tim Kennelly] beckoned me over and said 'You should be in with Kerry, someone should ring Dwyer about you'.
Of course, I was enthralled and before I gathered myself I was shoving 20 pence into the phone box out the back of the pub, ringing Waterville.
'Mr O'Dwyer, it's Pat Healy here from Listowel. We won a North Kerry final yesterday and Tim Kennelly suggested I give you a ring'. 'About what?', says Micko.
'About myself, and maybe I should be on the Kerry team at this stage?'
'And how did you get on?', queries Dwyer.
'Ah very good Micko. I got 3-3 storming forward from wingback, the lads here reckon I could do a job for Kerry'.
'And who were ye playing?'
'Well I'll tell you what', growls Dwyer, 'the next time Kerry are playing Duagh I'll give you a call', and the phone dies.
'I went back into the bar and of course the whole lot of them were falling around the counter, bursting their holes laughing'.
...those Kerry players are far away
Kerry, encouraged by Micko, were adept at capitalising on their fame for commercial gain. At the end of a long season, there existed the tantalising prospect of the team holiday, which they had to get crafty to fundraise for. They were at once inspired - and heartily scorned - by the man they called 'Dwyer'.
By 1981, with such regular success, it came to the stage that the only frontier left to conquer was Australia.
The team were as famous as they were going to be. People loved them. O'Dwyer's business brain told them their personalities and achievements made them an effortlessly marketable asset. The committee set a target of £60,000 and sketched out an itinerary - a world tour. The team would travel to New York, San Francisco, all over Australia and back to Hawaii for a month.
They started coming up with ideas. Aside from corporate and personal contributions, they would organise a competition to find a Kerry GAA personality of the year. An artist would be hired to paint a tribute to the team that had won four in a row.
'In fairness, the lady did it from passport photos', says Pat Spillane. 'But the trouble with passport photos is you don't know whether the person is 6 ft 9 or 2 ft 1! If you look at the painting, Ogie Moran is one of the biggest and John O'Keefe one of the smallest'.
Dwyer used to say that you'd have to hold it at a distance of a hundred yards.
Source: Kings of September by Michael Foley
International Man of Mystery
Some may deride Micko's training methods as old-fashioned, but in other aspects of life was a truly modern man.
Once they [Kerry] were in London for a Wembley Tournament and somehow O'Dwyer was being driven around by a London Irish millionaire with a Mercedes as big as a house. Graciously, O'Dwyer offered several players a lift and hopped into the front passenger seat himself. His eyes fell on a rather unwieldy apparatus between the seats.
'What is that?' he asked his host, picking up what was clearly an early car phone.
'It's a car phone', said the millionaire, pleased to have been asked. 'By Christ is that what it is', said O'Dwyer, looking at it with fascination. 'And how would that work now?'
'Well-' began the millionaire, but he was cut off.
'HELLO?' roared O'Dwyer. 'MARY CARMEL?'
The lads in the back smiled as a ten-minute phone conversation about the following night's dance in Waterville was played out. How would that work now! The Master!
Source - Dublin v Kerry, published by Penguin.