Westmeath's Mark Rohan with his gold medal. INPHO/Greg Smith

Dolan praises Mark Rohan's input to Westmeath football

The Paralympian has been brought on board with the Leinster county’s backroom team for the new season and has already made his mark.

PARALYMPIC GOLD-MEDAL winner Mark Rohan has been hailed as an ‘inspiration’ since joining the Westmeath backroom team by the county’s star forward Dessie Dolan.

Rohan, who won two goal medals in hand-cycling at the Paralympics in London last August, was recruited by Westmeath boss Pat Flanagan to join their setup this year.

The Ballinahown man has a strong GAA background, having played club football in Westmeath for Castledaly and lining out at full-back for the county in the 2001 Leinster U21 football championship.

Rohan was a promising Gaelic football prospect until he suffered horrific spinal injuries in a motorcycling accident in November 2001, but is now back assisting his county.

“When Mark came in, everybody was unsure as to his role because he’s an elite athlete and he’s a very busy guy with all this training,” Dolan told Newstalk’s Off The Ball last night.

“But he came in and gave us a speech on the opening day. It was just incredible. It was a tough situation that he found himself in, he wanted to be a Gaelic footballer but had an accident.

“He had a longing all his life to be involved with a Gaelic football team. He came in and was inspirational. He brought in the gold medals with him and just told us how much it’d mean to him to be involved.

“It was great and we’re very lucky to have someone of his calibre involved. He’s just there to keep an eye on players, help them out, give them advice on how to go training, motivation, talking psychology and all that stuff. We’re looking forward to working with him.”

Dolan praised Rohan’s qualities of determination.

“He was a tough, mean, dirty corner-back as a footballer,” joked the Garrycastle forward. “The thing about Mark is, what you find is his determination to succeed, and even through the tough times that he had, it comes out by him winning Olympic medals.

“I think the first time that he got on a bike, he was maybe 20 minutes away from the lads and then he decided, ‘I’m going to beat these lads’ and ended up winning an Olympic medal. That’s the type of guy he is. I think a lad like that is great to have on board.”

After taking a break in 2012, Dolan marked his return to the inter-county game last Sunday afternoon in Moate when he registered 0-6 in Westmeath’s 1-22 to 0-13 win over Athlone IT in the O’Byrne Cup.

Their Group C campaign in the pre-season provincial competition continues tonight when they travel to O’Moore Park in Portlaoise to face Laois at 7.30pm.

Listen to the full interview here

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