Veteran Connaughton set for return to Westmeath panel

Former All Star goalkeeper Gary Connaughton has returned to the Westmeath panel for the remainder of the league and could be involved in the Championship.

A mini-goalkeeping crisis forced manager Paul Bealin to coax Connaughton out of retirement having initially hung up his gloves at the age of 33 last summer.

Connaughton was on the bench as cover for Stephen Gallagher yesterday and will be involved next weekend when they conclude their campaign against Kildare.

Connaughton himself played down the significance of his return afterwards, briefly insisting he was merely filling a temporary gap in the panel.

But boss Bealin left the door open for a summer return which will give fans a ray of hope after a difficult campaign that has yielded relegation.

“For the moment, he is back,” said Bealin. “I picked up the phone and rang him last week because Darren (Quinn) broke down in training and Stephen was under pressure as well. We might not have had any ‘keeper.

“He will still be on the bench for the Kildare game and we will see what happens after that.”

Unfortunately for Connaughton, he couldn’t inspire Westmeath to a much needed win and they will compete in Division 2 next season. Boss Bealin insisted it wasn’t a wasted campaign but a steep learning curve.

“We have four or five lads on the bench who are 20-years of age, they did nothing wrong, it just takes time for those guys to be seasoned and when you are playing Division 1 football, you see the strength of teams,” said Bealin.

“Kerry’s subs really added to their performance. And when you look at what has happened in our previous games, against Dublin, Cork, they’ve brought players in too who have kicked great scores.

“I spoke to Eamonn Fitzmaurice afterwards and he made the point that we are competing really well at times but because we’re such a young side and it’s going to take time. When you hear comments like that, it is encouraging.

“The disappointing thing for me was their second goal, it was sloppy. We had possession of the ball. We lost it. We got it back and then lost it again. All of a sudden it was in the net. They took their chance and we didn’t take ours and when you play the Kerrys, the Corks, Dublins, they show ruthlessness.”

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