RTÉ pulled off another winner in the sports documentary genre last night with the broadcast to massive acclaim of ‘Micko’.
This was social history through the prism of sport and of one great man himself.
We know him through his sporting exploits as a player and a manager who worked his magic not only with his native Kerry but then getting Kildare to a first All Ireland Final in seventy years and Laois to a first Leinster title in 57 years.
O’Dwyer is a man who treats history as something to be learnt from but not a slave to. He saw potential where others would have looked with a less keen eye.
This was the case with Eoin ‘Bomber’ Liston who came to him as a ‘soft, pudgy fella’ and became synonymous with the great Kerry team of the 70’s and 80’s.
He reacted himself on social media last night to confirm that he’s still soft and pudgy but paid tribute to o’Dwyer as the greatest.
It was the social side of last night’s programme though that may stick longest in the mind.
The Grandfather who swam three miles from Scarrif Island to call for medical help when O’Dwyer’s mother’s entry into the world was threatened by a medical emergency.
This was a life lived in the spotlight of the time but which bears little or no resemblance to today. RTÉ’s first broadcast took place three years after he had won the first of his All Ireland’s as a player. His 70 years in the sport have seen it transformed utterly and there are few who can tell the story of that transformation with as much elegance as O’Dwyer.
He was responsible for some of what we see today, at least in part.
When Kerry took to the field in Adidas gear in the 70’s they were breaking a host of GAA rules which stated that kits could only be of Irish origin. They were fined by Croke Park but the payment from Adidas was more than the monetary value of the fine and so they did it again, and again.
They took part in advertising to wash those same kits in Bendix washing machines, again, completely unheard of and frowned upon by everyone else.
The modern sponsorship framework in the GAA would have happened as a result of worldwide marketing trends but O’Dwyers part in what we see today is more than a footnote.
His reflections on the loss of his wife, his own fading physical powers and inevitable passing would have moved a stone to tears and RTÉ deserves great credit for bringing this to life so soon after the Blues Sisters documentary at the end of last year.
Sport is always about more than the points and goals, the trophies and the records. It is a major part of how we see ourselves and what we are as a people and a society.
Image Credit: RTE