Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh relished Kerry training days in the capital
By Cian O’Connell
Stationed in the capital, Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh was simply delighted to answer Kerry’s call.
Things were beginning to change in the Kingdom with the spring of 1975 offering a fresh sense of hope and purpose with Mick O’Dwyer installed as manager.
What happened during the next decade and a half brought success, silverware, and joy. During most of that time Ó Muircheartaigh had the pleasure of training most of the Dublin based Kerry players.
“It was in the month of April in '75 or thereabouts when Mick O'Dwyer came on the scene,” Ó Muirchertaigh recalls.
“Gerald McKenna, the Chairman of the Kerry County Board, I don't think it was brought up at the County Board at the time, but Gerald drove down himself to Waterville to meet Mick O'Dwyer, to ask him would he like to train the Kerry team for the coming season.
“Of course Mick was always involved in football, I think the first time he played for the Kerry juniors was maybe in the mid 50s and so on. He went on to play on the 60s and 70s, he was there for a long, long time.”
Ó Muircheartaigh became involved during a richly rewarding spell. “They rang me and said they need somebody away from home that would look after the few players that were in Dublin,” Ó Muircheartaigh adds.
“He asked me would I be willing to do it, I said of course I would. That is how it started. We had a fair few footballers in Dublin at that time.
“Pat McCarthy was a newcomer to the team at that time, he was out in Kildare; John O'Keeffe was teaching in Dublin at the time, Ger Power was in the Civil Service, Charlie Nelligan was up and so on. Charlie, I think was in college, he spent maybe four or five years in Dublin, studying and playing football.
“He played soccer in his spare time, he was a wonderful man, and Paidi O'Mahony, equally as good in goal as any man that stood there, so was Charlie Nelligan. They were two great goalkeepers vying for the one position.”
Belfield usually provided the backdrop, but the Kerry contingent did gather elsehwere to be put through their paces by Ó Muircheartaigh.
“It was generally in Belfield, we gave a while in other places, a while in Drumcondra,” he replies, before recalling the emergence of Jack O’Shea.
“It suited players, Barry Walsh was with us and his brother, we had Jack O'Shea, he was a minor and he was training with the seniors because he came to Dublin to do a course with Anco in '75.
“He was there, he was with us, somebody else rang me one evening to say he was sent up. They told me that a young fella had gone up and that he was fairly handy, he didn't go beyond that, he asked would I ever bring him out with the lads, that it would do him good.
“So we had him there and he was keen to be watching them and learning from them and so on. They won the senior, Kerry won the minor the same year, and Jacko scored a goal and maybe two points playing full forward. From then on he was a midfielder, that is the way things were.
Footballers from other counties would frequently attend the sessions too. “We had lots of players from Kerry and others playing for clubs used to join us, Ó Muircheartaigh admits.
“I used to look forward to it. We would start early, not as early as they do now, but maybe around the start of February or thereabouts, we'd start, we'd take it by degrees, we'd keep an eye, try to have no injuries or anything like that.
“Thanks be to God nobody ever got injured while they were with me or playing with Kerry really, very few of them got injured. We had a good physiotherapist, they weren't common at the time, but we had access to one, she was great. Amy Johnston was great, she took on other teams too as a physiotherapist.
“We had great times, wonderful times, whether they won or they lost. All teams lose at some stage, Mick O'Dwyer's attitude was that it was gone, it was over, it was history, it won't change. Keep looking ahead. The one ahead is the one to win. Kerry, of course, had the great tradition behind them.
“It was good to have extra numbers. We occasionally had players from Mayo and Leitrim, in particular. Lots of them living in Dublin, they had nowhere to train, and they heard I was with Kerry and they asked would it be okay for a few of them to join from time to time.
“We had them, plenty of them from Mayo, the odd one from Donegal, people who would be a long way from home and where they wanted to be somewhere that people with the same message in their minds: to try to get as fit as they could.
“We had a great time, they were wonderful times. They were funny as well as being rewarding, great spirit, of course.”
Decades later Ó Muircheartaigh still marvels at the way O’Dwyer was able to get deep into the minds of his charges. “Mick O'Dwyer had the bulk of the team below and there was no man that could inspire any team like Mick O'Dwyer could,” Ó Muircheartaigh comments.
“From the day he took over there was a transformation. There had been a few bad years, that always happens. It was the start of a new and wonderful era. I would say the best team I ever saw and I saw an awful lot of good teams that won All Irelands, that Kerry team that developed under Mick O'Dwyer was the best team I ever saw, counting every county in Ireland.
“They were footballers, they went out to play football. In fairness to Dublin, any time Kerry and Dublin met, usually in big games in Croke Park, and sometimes in League games away from there, they both went out with the attitude always to play football: to win playing football.
“If they lost, they lost, and as Mick O'Dwyer used to say 'the next one won't be long in coming around'. There was no point in looking back, that doesn't change, the future is there, and you can influence it. He was great for getting through to people's minds on occasions like that.”
Ó Muircheartaigh will always be a cherished figure for a lyrical broadcasting style, but his role assisting one of the greatest football teams of all time remains a source of pride.