Pat Dolan speaks to Independent.ie as Reading prepare to pay a moving tribute to his late brother Eamonn
A special young man will lead Reading out at Wembley for their Championship play-off against Huddersfield on Monday - with his sadly departed father looking down on him with pride as he takes centre-stage in front of 90,000 fans.
As the family of ex-Reading academy director Eamonn Dolan preparing mark the first anniversary of his premature passing, the club where he made such a huge impact are about to make another statement to ensure his memory lives on.
Dolan played a pivotal role in the success story that saw Reading promoted to the Premier League for the first time in 2006 and that contribution has not be forgotten following his sad passing at the age of 48 last June.
The Galway-born visionary who handed Kevin Doyle and Shane Long their big breaks at Reading already had a stand renamed in his honour at the club’s Madejski Stadium, with the latest tribute about to take place so personal for his his family.
When Japp Stam and his Reading team emerge from the Wembley tunnel for a game worth £200m to the winners, they will be led on to the pitch by Eamonn’s 10-year-old Seamus Dolan.
There will not be a dry eye among the Dolan clan as Seamus is joined at Wembley by his Mum Erica and sister Grace, with Eamonn’s twin brother Pat touched by the continued gestures from a club determined to cherish the legacy.
“Reading are a classy club and it is typical of the owners that they have asked Seamus to be the mascot for the big day at Wembley,” the former St Patrick’s Athletic and Cork City manager Dolan told Independent.ie
“After any tragedy, life has to move on eventually and that is especially the case in football, where another game and another challenge is always around the corner.
“Yet Reading has ensured that Eamonn’s legacy would live on when they renamed one of their stands in his honour and it’s incredible to go to a game there and see the stand with his image on it and all 32 players he brought through the ranks to become first team stars.
“Now, by asking Seamus to be the mascot at Wembley, they have given our family another gift we are all so grateful.”
Pat shared a lunch with Shane Long in Dublin on Friday as they reminisced over his time with Eamonn at Reading and he hopes the example set by his brother will serve as a reminder to English clubs that star names can be unearthed and polished close to home.
“It’s becoming so difficult for Irish and even English kids to get a chance at top Premier League teams now and it doesn’t need to be like this,” continues Dolan.
“Players now work with agents to bring players in from all corners of the world and they end up with guys earning big money who are worse than the local players they have turned their back on.
“I remember the great Liverpool teams that were made up of British and Irish players, but it feels like those days are gone in many ways and that’s a real shame.
“Thankfully, Jaap Stam has a very different mindset at Reading and he judges players on their ability and nothing else.
“If all managers did had his mentality, we might be able to cut down on the stream of mediocre players flowing into the Premier League.”
Stam’s appointment as Reading manager last summer revived some of the Eamonn Dolan ethos at the club, with the former Manchester United defender no respecter of reputations as he has revived the club’s flagging fortunes.
“The work Jaap Stam has done at Reading this season has been so impressive,” adds Pat.
“He is not doing this job for the money because he made enough of that during his magnificent playing career and you just have to spend a few hours in his company to appreciate how much respect he has among the Reading players.
“I look at a young man like Liam Kelly and his career stalled under a succession of Reading managers.
“They may have looked at him, decided he was too short in stature and picked more robust players, but Stam came in, took one look at Liam and realised what a fantastic talent he was.
“This boy Kelly has the ability to win games on his own and Stam saw that straight away and brought him into his first team set-up.
“Now Liam has become a first team regular at Reading, he has turned games in their favour this season and he has deservedly earned a place in the Republic of Ireland squad as well.
“Eamonn played a role in Liam’s development and he would be so proud of the progress he has made and I firmly believe he could be a key player for Reading and Ireland for years to come.”
You can often assess the impact someone has made when the tributes are posted following their departure and on that score, Eamonn Dolan left a bigger mark on this earth than most of us could dream about.