'Before there was absolutely no continuity' - Dolan praise for Westmeath's first native manager in 26 years

Dessie Dolan believes Jack Cooney is laying the foundations for future success in the Lake County.

Westmeath boss Jack Cooney.
Westmeath boss Jack Cooney.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

A DRAW IN Westmeath’s re-fixed clash against Louth last weekend was enough to seal promotion for Jack Cooney’s side to Division 2 next season. 

The Lake County have tended to keep on the move in the league in recent years. In the last 11 seasons, they’ve been either promoted or relegated on nine occasions and remained in their division just twice. 

With John Heslin and Kevin Maguire returning to the squad this spring it’s been a bright start to Cooney’s tenure as boss.

They’ll play for silverware at Croke Park on Saturday afternoon, facing Laois in the Division 3 decider before the players take a break from the county scene with some club action.

Remarkably, Cooney became the first native Westmeath man to take the job in 26 years.

“I was on the committee that picked the manager and the feeling I was getting in the county was that people wanted a local man involved,” says former star forward Dessie Dolan.

We had a lot of managers that maybe managed other counties around and seemed to be going around the place looking for jobs and we’d take them on. 

“Certainly you’d imagine there would be people within the county well capable of taking the job, but for some reason they used to always go outside. 

“I suppose as well when you think of Páidí Ó Sé, he brought us our greatest day in Westmeath football and he was an outside manager. 

Paidi O Se and Mick O'Dwyer Páidí Ó Sé led Westmeath to provincial glory in 2004. Source: INPHO

“They were perfectly sound guys and all of that, but I suppose what seems to be happening now is the fact that Jack is in charge he’s trying to promote other former players to get involved with coaching and managing the underage teams and development squads. 

“So I think now there’s a bit of continuity there. When you look at Dublin and compare ourselves to the different models around, I think it’s important to get players that played county football involved with the development teams.”

The Coralstown/Kinnegad clubman was on the sideline for Westmeath’s historic first Leinster title victory in 2004, acting as a selector under Páidí Ó Sé.

He also spent time in the Donegal backroom team and recently enjoyed success on management ticket with Offaly champions Rhode.

“I think people are delighted Jack Cooney got the job,” continues Dolan.

The fact that he was with Donegal and got a lot of experience up there in terms of the professionalism that’s required nowadays.

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“He has a masters as well in sports science. People wanted someone who could give the team a bit of local passion and stuff like that and I think that side has really come into it. 

“He’s very familiar with the club scene. He trained a couple of clubs there and was with Kinnegad the last time (in Westmeath).

“People are delighted because there is a decent group of players there. There’s massive positivity about Jack since he’s come in.”

Dessie Dolan Dessie Dolan was speaking at the Renault GAA World Games launch in Croke Park. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

According to Dolan, Cooney is also putting the structures in place at underage level to ensure the health of Westmeath football going forward. 

“What they’re trying to do now is develop databases of players and information. Before there was absolutely no continuity. 

“If someone has the job three years then whenever they leave the job they leave all that good information and it’s gone, they bring it with them. 

That doesn’t in any way seem to be logical. I suppose what county teams are trying to do now with development teams is to have a system where there’s a bit of information on players going forward. A bit of continuity. 

“I do think that now that Jack Cooney has the job and a couple of Westmeath selectors in with him and a couple of others involved with the development squads that there’s a continuity there.

“Jack is paving the way for other people to get involved with Westmeath and I’d imagine he’s open to seeing what other Westmeath guys might be able to help him out. 

Certainly there’s much more communication. The past players are much more willing to get involved now because there’s a Westmeath man in charge. 

“In fairness, Jack would be an extremely popular figure. He was the leader as a player and very organised and dedicated guy who was an example to us all when we were going in with the county team. 

“So, certainly, everyone will do their best to support him.” 

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