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Dolan ends his exile in west'

DESSIE DOLAN'S eight-month exile from the Westmeath senior football panel will end tomorrow night when he attends his first training session under new interim manager Pat Flanagan.

And the former All Star has told the Evening Herald that he always believed he had "unfinished business" in the Westmeath jersey, despite making himself unavailable to former boss Brendan Hackett during this year's National Football League.

"I would not like to finish up in the circumstances that transpired - I wouldn't like to finish playing for Westmeath on that note," Dolan explained. "I'd like to think that my record would stand up. As a county footballer I've achieved some good things. I always felt like that I'd maybe unfinished business. What can I achieve this year? Considering I've missed so much of the season, I'd obviously be a bit behind what I'd like to be."

The veteran talisman was understandably coy about the background to his self-imposed exile, which focussed on last September's appointment of surprise 'outside' candidate Hackett while his own father, former Leitrim boss Dessie Snr, wasn't even interviewed for the vacancy.

However, he revealed: "It was just very messy. Garrycastle had a long year; I just felt the best thing for me to do was take a step back and see how things pan out. And I think it was a wise decision in the end. It gave me a chance for my injuries to heal."

He added that Dessie Snr had "maintained a dignified silence" through the whole saga, while any suggestions that he had gone into "a sulk" after his father was overlooked was "just farcical".

Since Hackett's resignation - in the wake of a pointless Division Two campaign followed by a player revolt - Flanagan has coaxed key forwards Denis Glennon and now Dolan back into the fold. The latter was initially undecided, but opted to return over the past week on the proviso that he came through yesterday's Westmeath SFC group match unscathed - Garrycastle duly beat The Downs by 2-12 to 1-7.

He has just three weeks to get back up to inter-county speed for Westmeath's Leinster SFC quarter-final against Wicklow. who have more convincing form and the added advantage of yesterday's opening championship blow-out against Carlow.

"Wicklow obviously played very well to score what they did, so I'd imagine they'll go into that game as favourites given everything that's gone on in Westmeath this year," Dolan admitted.

"There are very good players in Westmeath - it's just I'd say a lot of people are disillusioned. No more than a lot of players, I'd say a lot of the supporters are disillusioned as well. And I think, towards the end of the league, they weren't getting 50 people at matches, and I'd like to get those people out supporting the team again.

"We'll try and get a bit of a buzz back in the thing, and try and get some interest back in Westmeath football. There's a good under-21 team after coming through, players who are the next stars of the future. I would imagine I've a little to catch up on now, to be honest, because I was out for two or three months with a knee problem, so I'm not up to that pace just yet. I've a bit of work to get to that level."

One potential complication, later this summer, is that Dolan gets married on July 29 next.

"That's a long way into the season - all I know is that I'm going on honeymoon!" he concluded.