Mick O’Dwyer – The Arrogance of Greatness

Like most people, I was glued to the recent RTE’s documentary about the legendary Kerryman Mick O’Dwyer. Throughout the absorbing show I was amazed at Micko’s steadfast inner belief and self-confidence.

He was most at ease when he was unashamedly discussing his various accolades both on and off the field. Was it this arrogance that propelled him to greatness? Or was he simply born to achieve greatness and his mindset matched his conviction?

In Ireland we treat arrogance with complete disdain, a national pastime is hammering down anyone who may have gotten too big for their boots. As a nation we are self-depreciating to a fault. Irish women treat compliments with outright suspicion, men with sheer unease. I would wager Micko was never shy to accept praise and maybe that is what set him apart from the crowd. He had a heightened sense of self that was unaffected by outside negativity and it convinced others to follow him unreservedly.

It was refreshing to hear him talking about his own sporting prowess without even batting an eyelid. He was according to himself, an “excellent fielder” and had been an ” extremely accurate” forward. Written down it sounds pretentious, spoken by an 81 year-old in a thick Kerry accent with a wry grin, it sounded charming. He believed he was great and he was in the process of convincing me. Rather than downplaying our own achievements maybe it’s time we all spoke in such gushing tones.

Throughout his career he garnered a notorious reputation for being a tough trainer. It was revealed during the show that during the 70’s one of his Kerry teams trained 27 nights in a row. No quarter asked, no quarter given. His methods may have been archaic but they got results. Running laps could have become monotonous very quickly had the players not felt they were part of something special.  Players were fully committed to the cause and Micko helped create the greatest dynasty in Gaelic Football history winning 8 All- Ireland’s.

The programme itself had a wonderful flow to it. Micko was never interrupted by a question and was able to set the narrative throughout the piece. My favourite part of the show was when he attended a club game in Killarney. Sitting beside Maurice Fitzgerald and Eoin “The Bomber” Liston he rolled back the years, cursing and leaping out of his seat at the sight of Bryan Sheahan hammering his man with a shoulder and scoring a long-range point. His energy and unbridled passion were a joy to behold.

The show was designed to chronicle Micko’s life and career but may have offered an insight into how achieve true greatness in sport and beyond. His achievements were not by chance as he replicated success with multiple county teams and in different business ventures throughout his life. Perhaps his dynamite combination of unrestrained passion for life and faultless self belief holds the key to greatness for us all.


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