Connaughton calls time on Westmeath career
WESTMEATH goalkeeper Gary Connaughton has announced his retirement from inter-county football.
The Tubberclair man made the decision after the Lake County's interest in the championship ended with defeat to Fermanagh in the qualifiers on Saturday.
Despite not making his debut for Westmeath until he was 25 in 2004, Connaughton established himself as one of the country's top goalkeepers, earning an All Star in 2008 as well as two more nominations.
His late emergence was due in part to a promising soccer career. He was on trial with Newcastle United as a teenager and was involved with Ireland schoolboy sides before lining out with Athlone Town in the League of Ireland for a number of seasons.
"Last year I broke my ankle and I wanted to come back and give it one more year, so I'm glad I did that, but I think the time is right to step aside and to let some of the younger goalies in the county have a go," he said.
And despite last weekend's defeat, Connaughton believes the future for Westmeath is bright as they look forward to top-flight league football in 2014.
"We've some great young players in the squad now, lads like John Heslin, Ger Egan, Kieran Martin – all of these guys have the best of their career ahead of them," he said.
"Playing Division 1 football next year is going to be very tough but the only way guys are going to learn about what it takes is to play at that level... hopefully that will lead to success in future years."
Connaughton's retirement leaves Dessie Dolan and Denis Glennon as the only surviving members from the Westmeath side that won the breakthrough Leinster title in 2004.
The 'keeper also won a NFL Division 2 title in 2008, as well as an U-21 Leinster medal in 2000.
Rosemount's Eoin Carberry and Darren Quinn of Tyrrellspass are expected to fight it out to replace Connaughton next year.