Dessie Dolan reckons “now is the time” for Westmeath to look for an inside manager to pull the county out of the black hole it resides in.
The former Westmeath footballer is extremely disappointed by the team’s lowly standing, a direct result of their fall from Division 1 of the Allianz FL to Division 4 in the space of three years, and believes one of the “leaders” from the 2004 Leinster-winning set-up should be given a chance to serve at the helm.
Brian Murtagh was the last Westmeath native to manage the county’s flagship team and when Kildare’s Tom Cribbin got the nod ahead of Jack Cooney in November 2014, he joined a long list of outsiders to wear the bainisteoir’s bib since Murtagh’s term came to an end before the start of the 1992 Leinster championship.
“It’s incredible to think that they went from Division 1 to Division 4 in consecutive years. It’s just disappointing,” said Dolan at RTÉ’s recent championship launch.
“For me personally, I just feel that there’s a team there, the 2004 team, there was a lot of good characters, good strong leaders in that group and I think they should be given an opportunity [to manage]. I know Jack Cooney went for the job [in 2014].
“So I suppose you maybe say to yourself, ‘Now is the time [to consider a Westmeath native]’, because they’re at the bottom.
“The players are good. I played with them two years ago. They work extremely hard. It’s just that for some reason they’re not pulling together at the minute. If they get their act together, they can get back up the divisions.”
Who from the 2004 set-up, though, is interested in taking the reins should the position re-open in the near future?
“Jack Cooney was involved in 2004, he was a selector at that time. So it just shows you the value of Jack Cooney, he was there, he wanted the Westmeath job and he didn’t get it and straightaway Donegal go in to get him.
“It’s great that he’s going learning at the level required. They’re a team that has All-Ireland winners in it. He’s going to get first-hand experience of the quality required.”
Westmeath open their Leinster campaign at home to Offaly on Sunday.
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