Dolan can still play key role -- Bealin
WESTMEATH manager Paul Bealin wants Dessie Dolan fit and well for the big challenges ahead in 2014.
Former Dublin All-Ireland winner Bealin, recently appointed as successor to Pat Flanagan, would ideally like Dolan available for the Lake County's O'Byrne Cup opener against his native county on January 5
But if Dolan, undergoing rehab on a recurring hamstring injury, can't make it for the Mullingar clash with the All-Ireland champions, Bealin will be patient.
"I've spoken to Dessie several times," said Bealin. "He's the sort of guy that wants to play. He's 34 years of age, we've done a body composition analysis on him, and he's in good shape.
"My fear is that if he pushes it and the injury goes again, that will be challenging, but all the news that he's got back from the medical side of it has been positive. If he gets himself fit, he's good enough to play a part."
The 1995 All-Ireland winner has two main goals for Westmeath in 2014: to retain their hard-won Division 1 status, and to have a good championship run. These are tall orders, and the ambition is not helped by the annual 'migration' of county players to Sigerson and U-21 commitments.
Bealin would prefer the college competitions to be played before Christmas, and feels the recent Football Review Committee ducked the challenge on that issue.
"Any manager coming in for the first time wants to have his whole squad together so he can play systems, and train and coach them properly," he said.
"They (college competitions) should be played pre-Christmas, because there's just too much going on. The window's too tight. Then there's the U-21 competition, starting in February.
"They haven't addressed it. They talk about player burnout and closing the season, then they schedule six to eight weeks when players in the 18-22 age bracket are playing highly intensive football."
The former Carlow and Wexford manager has held three trial matches in Westmeath in which 71 players took part. That number has been whittled down to 42, and when the college players are missing the panel will be around 30 for the start of the season.
Among the absentees who have college commitments are John Heslin, Ger Egan and James Dolan, but overall, Bealin says he has a youthful, committed group of footballers.
"There's a strong squad there. If they stay in the division it would be good. The league for us will be used as preparation for the championship," he said. "Westmeath haven't had a really good run in the championship for a while."