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Dolan: Financial clout of big guns creating divide

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Westmeath footballer Dessie Dolan

Westmeath footballer Dessie Dolan

SPORTSFILE

From left to right, Waterford hurler Noel Connors, Down footballer Benny Coulter, Dublin footballer Bernard Brogan, Westmeath footballer Dessie Dolan and Kilkenny hurler Michael Fennelly

From left to right, Waterford hurler Noel Connors, Down footballer Benny Coulter, Dublin footballer Bernard Brogan, Westmeath footballer Dessie Dolan and Kilkenny hurler Michael Fennelly

SPORTSFILE

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Westmeath footballer Dessie Dolan

WITH Division 1 football to look forward to next year and an average squad age in the early 20s, the future is bright for Westmeath.

But it is with a slight sense of trepidation that Dessie Dolan and Westmeath will pitch up in Croke Park to face Dublin on Saturday night.

At least part of that is based on the recent history between the sides as margins of 10 and 27 points separated them in their last two championship meetings in Croke Park.

But perhaps the greater part of his concern stems from how the top-ranked teams, of whom Dublin are one, have dismissed their opposition in recent weeks with Mayo, Kerry and Cork all recording alarmingly facile wins.

Talent, Dolan agrees, is one issue but their superiority is underpinned by a spend on county teams that dwarfs their rivals. Money is talking like he has never seen before in his 14-year career.

"Finance would definitely be an issue," says the former All Star. "When you hear Donegal going for a training camp from a Tuesday to a Saturday, the first question I ask is, 'Are none of them working?' GPS systems, you see a lot of teams having that in place. Okay, some Division 4 teams have it too.

"But it's just money again with training camps and nutritionists. You hear that Andy Moran had an individual coach to try and get him back on track and the level of professionalism that those teams are going to. It is remarkable but it's finance too.

"There's no doubt about it, there's a different level between the top teams. I think there's six teams in Ireland and they've just gone through the roof in terms of preparation and never before have I seen a situation where teams are getting beaten the way they are.

"And I would be concerned the way that's happening because when I look at the teams and the preparation, and I've watched a lot of Division 1 games, there's definitely a big difference between Division 1 and 2.

"As I was playing all those years I didn't see it as evident as I did now. A lot of the teams can't keep up to that level, there's a couple of elite teams and the rest of us are just making up the numbers."

It's a stark assessment, particularly coming from a Westmeath camp that is seen as one of the more progressive around.

Only once in his career, which started away back in 1999, has Dolan been on a Westmeath team that has beaten Dublin in the championship.

That came back in 2004 when Paidi O Se's side ambushed the Dubs but should the Lake County be on the receiving end this weekend, Dolan's assertion will carry more weight.

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"Saturday night is Dublin's eighth game at Croke Park out of 10 this year. They know the pitch, the know the supporters, they know everything about it. They played well here all year. They have the supporters on their back.

"Everything is in their favour. We haven't beaten Dublin in nine years. Realistically everything is in their favour. We have worked hard this year but at the same time we know that it's a seriously difficult assignment on Saturday night."

Dolan spent last summer in Boston, taking a hiatus from inter-county football after Garrycastle's club campaign had gone all the way to St Patrick's Day but he insisted he always intended returning to Westmeath colours.

"I don't think it would have been a good way to go out. I went to America for my own reasons. Garrycastle had a long year. My wife had just got pregnant and I decided to go away for a break but keep it to ourselves.

"I was never going to just leave Westmeath in those circumstances. It wouldn't have been the right thing to do. I've always had a very good relationship with the players, supporters and managers I've been involved with and when Pat rang me, straight away I'd no hesitation going back in because I felt I owed everyone to finish off properly."

A hamstring injury and Westmeath's good form meant Dolan only forced his way back into Pat Flanagan's side for the championship opener against Carlow that set up a date with the Dubs.

Along with Garry Connaughton and Denis Glennon, Dolan is the only survivor from that 2004 success and while he sees a bright future for the county, he's pleaded for patience, starting with Saturday night.

"It's important for the development of our team and all of those young lads that we put in a good performance the next day and set a marker down."

Irish Independent