Wicklow boss Mick O’Dwyer may be touching 76, but his enthusiasm for Gaelic football was as strong on Saturday night as it has ever been as his team pulled off a sensational draw, after extra-time, away to Armagh in the All-Ireland qualifiers.
The sides will meet again in Aughrim on Saturday night, with the winners set to face Tyrone, but for now O’Dwyer is happy to concentrate on the Armagh challenge.
“It was a wonderful performance from our team and also a wonderful performance from Armagh. It was a very, very competitive game, real championship stuff,” insisted O’Dwyer.
“It was touch and go all the way through. There was only a few points in it. We were about five points up at halftime and Armagh came back in the second-half and drew level and then went ahead and we came back again. It was the goals more than anything that saved us in the finish.
“It was a wonderful game of football and I think all the people that were there really enjoyed it. There’s no doubt about that.”
Still as fresh as ever, the Kerry legend insists he is no closer to retirement than he has been at any stage of his recent career with the Garden County.
“Well, they’re writing me off for many, many years, as you know,” added O’Dwyer.
“That goes on regularly but I don’t take any notice of that whatsoever. That’s part and parcel of scribes. They have to keep writing about the games and about the individuals involved.
“I’m still there anyway and we’re still in there and we’re still in with a shout, so I’m hoping that we’ll have a good competitive game again with Armagh next Saturday.”
Aughrim has been a fortress for Wicklow under O’Dwyer, and Armagh boss Paddy O’Rourke knows his team will be up against it in Saturday night’s replay.
“It’s a very tough place to go. If we play like that down in Aughrim, we’ll get beat off the pitch, so we have a lot of work to do,” said O’Rourke after the drawn game in Armagh.
“We’ll sit down and look closely at the game and hopefully we can go down there and improve.”
Galway continued their recent revival with a well deserved 2-23 to 1-14 win over Cork in Limerick on Saturday to book an All-Ireland quarterfinal date with Waterford.
“It was a do-or-die fixture. Again, there was no safety net. Last Saturday would have counted for nothing against Clare if we came out tonight and didn’t produce a similar type of performance,” said manager John McIntyre after his team’s 12 point win.
“If Carlsberg did consistency I suppose they wouldn’t have been looking for the Galway team three or four weeks ago but maybe they might have to reconsider now.
“We made it hard on ourselves. We gave away a goal that, well, it was a shocker, and in fairness to our goalkeeper James Skehill he never put a foot wrong after that, which shows good character on his part.
“We were six points down playing with the wind. It looked grim but, you know, our fellas came through the ultimate test of character and I’m very proud of them.”
Cork boss Denis Walsh doesn’t know what will happen next after his reign as manager came to an end with Saturday’s defeat to the Tribesmen.
“My term is up and I would have no great thoughts on it yet. I didn’t put any thoughts into it,” said Walsh after his team’s summer came to an end.
“If the mood in the county is to bring in someone that is fairly constructive and move the things on, I think we have blooded players in there.
“We can’t hide behind saying there is a team there for the future. Certainly we have an awful lot of 19, 20 and 21-year-olds involved and understand what is required.
“I think they will be outstanding players, but they certainly need another year or two to produce.”
Galway were full value for their win in Limerick as their experience and speed paid dividends in the last two thirds of the match.
Walsh admitted, “We were tremendous in the first 10 or 15 minutes and played some brilliant hurling. In fairness Galway knuckled down and they wore us down. Galway fully deserved their victory and took over from the 20th minute. They proved their worth.”
Kildare scored 3-16 en route to victory over Laois in the All-Ireland qualifiers on Saturday night, but manager Kieran McGeeney still wants to see an improvement when they play Meath in the next round of the qualifiers this coming weekend.
“I still think we play well in the first-half but we don’t shoot well in the first-half,” McGeeney said after his team hit 19 wides in Portlaoise.
“We got a lot of possession. We did some great movement in the first half and we didn’t take our shots for points. Our goals were great and you always want that. Tom O’Connor was very good inside but we could have had another six or seven points on the board.”
Laois boss Justin McNulty admitted that his team was totally outclassed on the night as they lost by 3-16 to 0-10.
“The lads are totally devastated because of the nature of the performance,” said McNulty. “Kildare completely outplayed us in the second half, technically, tactically.
“In every area of the performance they totally outclassed us in the second half and we’re hugely disappointed. The manner of the defeat was incredible.
“We expected them to bring a big game in the second half. We expected to have a big game ourselves in the second half, but they completely blitzed us and you’d have to give them credit.
“You have to say that Kildare have a very effective defensive system. They played the blanket defense a treat; then turned us over in defense, moved the ball quick into open areas of space in our backline.
“Tactically we were totally outgunned, outclassed by Kildare.”
Limerick are through to the quarterfinals of the All-Ireland SHC thanks to Saturday’s win over Antrim in the qualifiers, but manager Donal O’Grady is worried that many of his young players face burn-out.
Many of O’Grady’s squad will play against Clare in a Munster under-21 semifinal on Wednesday, July 20, just days before their senior quarterfinal date with Dublin.
“If the GAA are serious about burnout, they’ll put the under-21 game back,” said O’Grady.
“It’s not my decision -- it’s a decision for the Munster Council -- but maybe sense will prevail. From a medical, burnout and prevention-of-injury point, you wouldn’t play a full match on a Thursday night and then go back out on a Saturday or Sunday and play a full match again. That’s a recipe for disaster.”
Tyrone boss Mickey Harte defended his decision to leave the veteran Brian Dooher on the bench for the first half of Saturday night’s All-Ireland qualifier win over Longford.
“That’s what squads are about. We have to mix it up at this stage because we intend to be on the road for a few weeks,” said Harte.
“If you’re on the road for a few weeks, then your players are going to need a bit of rest time and that’s what a good squad’s about.”
Longford boss Glenn Ryan has yet to make any decision on his future with the county after their exit from the championship.
BOTH All-Ireland hurling quarterfinals will be played in Thurles on Sunday, July 24 when Dublin meet Limerick at 2 p.m. Irish time, followed by Waterford against Galway at 4 p.m. The semifinals will be played at Croke Park on August 7 and August 14.
DONEGAL defender Leo McLoone has undergone surgery on a fractured eye socket sustained during a club game. McLoone is definitely out of Sunday’s Ulster final against Derry while Rory Kavanagh, Kevin Rafferty and Anthony Thompson are all doubtful.
CURRENT Waterford hurling boss Davy Fitzgerald has tried to distance himself from the Clare vacancy after Ger O’Loughlin resigned in the wake of the recent defeat to Galway in the All-Ireland qualifiers.
VAL Andrews will take sole charge of the Cavan footballers next season with his right-hand man Terry Hyland set to work as a selector after stepping down from his role as joint manager.
LEITRIM coach Mickey Moran could quit in the wake of his team’s defeat to Down in the All-Ireland qualifiers in Newry on Saturday night.
DERRY’S Eoin Bradley faces months on the sidelines after surgery to repair a cruciate knee ligament injury picked up in training on Sunday.
KERRY star Declan O’Sullivan was sent-off for a straight red card offense as his South Kerry side lost to Dr. Crokes on Sunday.
RUMORS are rife in Cork that the O’Connor twins, Ben and Gerry, will retire in the wake of the defeat to Galway.
FORMER Limerick boss Mickey Ned O’Sullivan has been appointed as the new manager of the Kerry minor footballers.
BRENDAN Fennelly has resigned as manager of the Laois hurlers.