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.”