'One of the most iconic sportsmen from the county' - Praising Westmeath's new boss Dessie Dolan

2004 Leinster winner Gary Connaughton says his former teammate is a brilliant appointment for Westmeath.

Dessie Dolan and Gary Connaughton during their Westmeath days.
Dessie Dolan and Gary Connaughton during their Westmeath days.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

FORMER WESTMEATH GOALKEEPER Gary Connaughton has welcomed the appointment of Dessie Dolan as the county’s new manager, labelling him “one of the most iconic sportsmen from the county.”

Both Dolan and Connaughton played crucial roles for Westmeath’s 2004 outfit that famously captured the Leinster SFC title under Páidí Ó Sé, and were teammates for many years.

Dolan moves into the hot seat having worked under the ongoing boss Jack Cooney during the 2021 season which culminated in Westmeath winning the inaugural Tailteann Cup.

The Westmeath Examiner reported yesterday that Dolan’s ratification was imminent and his appointment was later confirmed by Westmeath GAA. Two-time All-Star John Keane is set to stay on as part of Dolan’s backroom team to work alongside his former team-mate.

“It’s a very good appointment for Westmeath,” Connaughton told The42 about Dolan earning the top role in the Lake County.

“He’s one of the most iconic sportsmen from the county. He’s well known, very popular with supporters and players so it was a no-brainer decision. Himself and John Keane work well together as a team and Dessie comes across really well with his media duties.

“He was a teammate of mine for years as captain. He talks well, prepares well and knows what it takes to get to the top so it’s a great appointment for Westmeath and hopefully they can build on the success of the Tailteann Cup and go another step again.”

Reflecting on their playing days together with Westmeath, Connaughton recalls Dolan as an influential presence in the dressing-room “who always spoke well,” and showcased all the qualities that could make him a candidate for management in the future.

“He looked after himself very well, was always out early on the pitch. He’d always have a bag of balls and kicking points over the bar. He hasn’t managed club teams or underage teams as such but I’m sure that year of experience [under Jack Cooney], he watched a lot of games for the media as well.

“Players in the county look up to him. And as a player, John Keane always prepared so well for games. and that’s why he won two All-Stars. I was with him on a management team for a county U21 panel a few years ago and he was very organised. He put some amount of work in preparing teams and looking at teams. He and Dessie will work well together as a management team going forward.”

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Looking ahead to the 2023 season and the expectations for Dolan’s first season in charge of the county’s senior footballers, Connaughton says promotion from Division 3 is a key target to aim for. And if good fortune favours them in the championship, Westmeath can make further progress there.

“If they got promoted from Division 3, that would be a great success. And then, depending on the draw, if they could get to a Leinster final at least, and get a run at the qualifiers, they’re well capable of beating a good few teams around the country in Division 1 and 2 on their day.

“If they get a good solid league campaign, and win a few championship games. Anything after that would be a bonus. The tails will be up and Dessie will have a big following after winning the Tailteann Cup.”

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