As the current Wicklow manager, an O’Byrne Cup game in early January was far removed from the intensity of the storied Kerry-Dublin clashes in the 1970s; however, O’Dwyer was his usual sprightly self as he prowled the touchline.
Not that his enthusiasm was able to prevent his charges from being swamped by 2-12 to 0-9 at Parnell Park. Dublin were simply in a different class despite the absences of Ciaran Whelan, Conal Keaney and Bryan Cullen, and in fact, the margin could have been greater if the winners hadn’t been guilty of some wasteful shooting.
However, there were a few positives for the veteran O’Dwyer as Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton was forced to make several saves from the Wicklow forwards.
“No excuses. We have to get up to a higher level of fitness, and we know it’s a long way up the ladder,” he said. “We had three goal chances, but you’re dealing with the best goalkeeper in Ireland in Cluxton, and if we’d got one or two it might have made a difference.”
Dublin’s goals came from Barry Kennedy and Pat Burke while Bernard Brogan added six points including three frees. Wicklow’s main attacking threat, Tommy Gill, was held to just a single point.
With the Dublin manager, Paul Caffrey, expressing his satisfaction, there was less for Kildare’s new boss, Kieran McGeeney, to be pleased about as his side was surprisingly beaten 0-9 to 0-7 by Longford at Newbridge.
Although McGeeney put out a largely experimental line-up with Dermot Earley at full forward, he admitted that a scoring return of seven points was “extremely poor for a Division One team”. With their own full forward, Brian Kavanagh, looking very sharp, Longford deserved the win courtesy of two late points.
A superb Mattie Forde goal was the difference as Wexford got the better of Laois by 1-14 to 0-14 at Enniscorthy, while Paul Bealin began his tenure as Carlow manager with a predictably facile 3-13 to 1-6 victory over Kilkenny at Dr. Cullen Park. Elsewhere in Leinster, Offaly crushed Athlone IT by 5-24 to 0-9 and Westmeath had to battle to edge out DIT by 2-8 to 0-12.
Ulster’s Dr. McKenna Cup also got under way in style for Derry who were convincing 2-9 to 0-6 winners over Armagh in Lurgan. Although Armagh were understrength, they only managed to score one point in the second half which won’t have warmed the cockles of new manager Peter McDonnell’s heart.
Stefan Forker didn’t help the losers’ cause by missing a first half penalty as Derry stamped their authority with two goals by Sean Leo McGoldrick.
Tyrone allowed five of their own panel to play for the UUJ students in Omagh and paid the price on a 0-12 to 0-9 scoreline. The result marked the end of five years of Tyrone dominance in the competition and when UUJ’s Colm Cavanagh was sent off for a second yellow card offense, they were unable to take advantage.
Meanwhile, Cavan defeated Monaghan by 0-15 to 1-9 at Breffni Park where Jason Reilly contributed four points and Fermanagh were comfortable 1-18 to 1-11 winners over college side St. Mary’s at Lisnaskea.
In Connacht’s FBD League, there was a good start for Galway’s Liam Sammon as his charges defeated Sligo by 1-13 to 0-9 in Tuam. With Sligo struggling for long periods to raise a flag, Galway controlled the second half and sealed the result with a Micheal Meehan penalty close to full time.
Mayo were surprisingly beaten by 2-9 to 0-14 by the students of NUIG at Ballinrobe where a Mark Ronaldson goal proved decisive, while Eoin Mulligan scored 1-4 for Leitrim were 2-7 to 0-8 winners over GMIT at Carrick-on-Shannon. As for the league holders, Sligo IT, they began where they left off last season with a 1-15 to 0-13 victory against Roscommon at Ballinode.
In Munster, Clare opened up their McGrath Cup campaign with a 0-9 to 0-4 success against UCC in Milltown Malbay, however, it took 20 minutes of extra-time at Dungarvan before UL emerged victorious by 1-15 to 2-9 over Waterford.
In the one hurling game last weekend, Clare gave new coach Mike McNamara a winning start when they defeated UL by 0-20 to 1-13 in the first round of the Waterford Crystal Cup at Meelick.