Story of Micko's Wicklow sojourn lost in translation

Book review: Alan Aherne

Published 16/07/2016 | 00:00

A Year in Wicklow with Micko
A Year in Wicklow with Micko

Let's face it, there's not many people out there so popular that their 80th birthday can result in one national newspaper producing an eight-page supplement to mark the occasion.

That happened recently though in the case of Mick O'Dwyer, and the Kerry maestro is generally regarded as being the best Gaelic football manager of all time.

His record with his native county speaks for itself, both as player and boss, but he also brought his Midas touch to bear on Kildare and Laois who had craved success for so long before his arrival.

His enthusiasm for a challenge was never more clearly underlined than when he took on the onerous task of guiding our neighbours, and this has led to the publication of 'A Year In Wicklow With Micko - The Summer Mick O'Dwyer Made The Garden County Bloom'.

The author is Ciarán Byrne, a primary school teacher in the county and Dublin native who was given special access to the dressing-room for the 2009 campaign. That season was the high point of Micko's time at the helm as Aughrim played host to three successive qualifier victories over Fermanagh, Cavan and Down respectively.

The notes on the author at the start of the book include the revelation that he has never been a member of a G.A.A. club. That is a key point, along with his later admission that he was essentially on a voyage of self-discovery while carrying out this project.

Given that he's not a journalist, the ability to vividly tell a story that would have improved this book ten-fold is lacking.

In fairness, I wouldn't know where to begin either if I was transported into Byrne's classroom and asked to teach, but the absence of polish in his writing makes this a disappointing read for the most part.

Most of the content carries nothing of a revelatory nature to anyone who has ever been inside a dressing-room, either as a player or mentor, in contrast to the author who was on his maiden voyage.

Certainly the message Micko delivered seems to have been lost in translation as there doesn't appear to be anything special in what he says in his pre-match talks.

Time has played tricks on the author too, with this quote attributed to O'Dwyer on page 35: 'If you stand back and pull a jersey you'll get a black or yellow card'.

In fairness to the man, he couldn't possibly have said that in 2009 because black cards weren't even a figment of some administrator's imagination at that stage.

That gaffe should have been spotted by an editor, but it's hardly surprising given the string of typos running through this book. Miracle is mis-spelled as 'mircale' in the introduction, and it doesn't get any better. Given the seven-year gestation period before the book saw the light of day, this sloppiness is unforgivable.

The part of the book that will undoubtedly appeal most to the readers is the account of those three memorable weeks when three Ulster sides came a cropper before an appreciative Aughrim audience who had waited so long for any semblance of success.

There is a very good index to the book but a statistical appendix on the games and players involved would have helped.

Interviews with the selectors who worked with Micko are also misplaced in the middle of the book as they talk about events yet to unfold in the general narrative and it becomes confusing.

O'Dwyer's time in Wicklow deserved to be marked in print, but it could have been done in considerably better fashion in my opinion.

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