Hackett refusing to give up on Gavin comeback
WESTMEATH full-back Kieran Gavin could yet line out for the county this year, despite previously ruling himself out of all inter-county action in 2010.
Gavin had, unusually, voluntarily taken himself out of contention for both NFL and championship action in 2010 because he intends travelling abroad next summer.
But new Westmeath boss Brendan Hackett has not given up hope of using the talented defender at some stage of the year, most likely the National League.
"I've spoken to Kieran, he is playing for his college (DCU) in the O'Byrne Cup and we will review things after that," Hackett said. "I know he had ruled himself out for championship and I respect his decision but, having spoken to him about being available at some stage of the year, I'd say it is not a 'no' as of now.
"If he is available to us at any stage of the league we'd be very glad to have a player of his calibre but I will not be putting pressure on him."
It still looks like Westmeath will definitely be without former All Stars Dessie Dolan and John Keane this year.
Two-time All Star defender Keane has already declared his intention to step down from inter-county action. And while Dolan has not yet declared his intent, his return looks extremely doubtful, not least because his father Des was not even interviewed for the job of manager despite being nominated through the clubs.
"At this point Dessie (Dolan) has not made himself available to us so he is not in our plans for the immediate future," Hackett said.
His surprise appointment -- Hackett has previously managed Longford and Offaly's senior footballers but was better known in recent years as CEO of Athletics Ireland as well as a prominent practising sports psychologist -- has created a stir in the county, not least because of his high-profile back-room team.
His selectors include former county star Michael 'Spike' Fagan and former county board official and referee Paddy Collins. He has also brought in Olympic boxing hero Michael Carruth as official team masseuse and has involved Olympic canoeist Eoin Rheinisch.
However, the new Westmeath boss' plans have taken a bit of a hammering because of this winter's severe weather.
Like all managers, he was limited for the past two months to organising players to do their own gym work and running trials for inter-county rookies. But just one of Westmeath's planned trials went ahead in early November because of a flooded ground and the recent cold spell has proved a further impediment in the past few days.
Westmeath open their season against DCU (including Gavin) in the O'Byrne Cup in Mullingar next Sunday but Hackett admitted that they are going into it with little or no preparation.
"We will be using a blend of established and new players for the O'Byrne Cup and essentially will have to use it as our trials now," Hackett said.
Veteran star Damien Healy has, noticeably, committed himself to the cause for another season.
Among the newcomers being looked at are Gary Quinn (Athlone), Tommy Warburton (Castledaly), John Gaffey (Garrycastle), David Reynolds (Maryland), Stephen Bracken (Coralstown/Kinnegad), Aidan Finnan and Noel Kiernan (both Bunbrosna), Mark Dalton (The Downs), Willie Coyne and Ronan Doolin (both Castletown-Finea/Coole/Whitehall), Gavin Hoey (Tyrrellspass) and county hurlers Paul Greville (Killucan) and Philip Gilsenan (St Paul's).