Tuesday 28 January 2020

Ousted Bealin says he is the victim of 'player power'

Bealin claims player power lies behind Westmeath board’s decision to wield axe

Former Westmeath manager Paul Bealin. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Former Westmeath manager Paul Bealin. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Paul Bealin had some advice yesterday for whoever succeeds him as the Westmeath football manager – bring a decent-sized mirror, so some of the players can have a long, hard look at themselves.

Paul Bealin had some advice yesterday for whoever succeeds him as the Westmeath football manager – bring a decent-sized mirror, so some of the players can have a long, hard look at themselves.

Bealin made his comments in the wake of a 37-12 vote that favoured replacing him after a disappointing season when they lost all 12 competitive games.

The former Dublin footballer believes that, while clubs had their say and he is willing to take his share of responsibility for how the season went, he is ultimately the victim of “player power”, with a small element in the dressing room clearly looking for a “scapegoat”.

It is understood that Westmeath players met in the wake of their qualifier defeat to Cavan at the end of June, where a mood for change in management came across strongly.

“I think that while some of the players may feel they have all the answers, they do have a bit of soul-searching to do themselves,” said Bealin.

“I would advise the next manager whoever he is – and I wish him the best of luck – to bring a set of mirrors, so the players can have a look at themselves first.

“And I say that in a constructive way, not a nasty way.

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“Some 90pc of the players, for me, have been fantastic.

“But there are a few players – some very influential – who caused friction, in my opinion, and tried to take the onus off their own performance,” he added.

Bealin took over from Pat Flanagan, who guided Westmeath to surprise promotion to Division 1 last season and was keen to remain on as manager despite his term coming to an end. But the Westmeath board cast their net wide and opted for the former Wexford and Carlow manager.

Sustaining Division 1 status was always an impossibility in such company, but losing to Louth in the Leinster championship was the “critical” result, Bealin accepted.

He was full of praise for officers of the county board who, he said, couldn't have supported the team more. A majority of the management committee sought to have Bealin ratified. But he felt “in hindsight” he should have tackled some issues that arose throughout the year, particularly in the build-up to the Louth game.

“The elephant in the room was never really tackled head on for whatever reason and I take responsibility for not dealing with that.

“But I was on a hiding to nothing.

“These are key moments. If we had beaten Louth, I might have held on, if we had beaten Cavan, you could have been looking at another season,” he said.

“Beating Dublin, Kerry, Mayo and Cork were always going to be huge asks.

“The top five or six teams are miles ahead of everyone else.”

Bealin is adamant that as a management team, they embraced the professional methods and standards.

“One of the questions I have asked over and over again to the relative committee and to players is: what could Paul Bealin have done or what did Paul Bealin not do?

“And the answer has come back that Paul Bealin could do no more. That question was asked.

“What did we not do? And there was silence.

“It's player power, it's the players that are deciding that they want something different.

“Looking for a scapegoat. I do believe the players had an influence on the decision.

“In fact, I know they did.”

The decision to part company with Bealin triggered a debate in Westmeath on Wednesday night that went on for nearly three hours.

Bealin is effectively the third successive manager that Westmeath have now dispensed with for different reasons.

Brendan Hackett left after the 2010 league when player support for him receded.

Flanagan was keen to stay on despite his term being up, but was overlooked, while Bealin was just one year into a three-year spell.

There is a growing feeling in the county that they should now look within the county for a replacement and former manager, Luke Dempsey, may be best placed to offer some stability.

Dempsey, who managed Westmeath to an All-Ireland quarter-final in 2001, said last year that he would not be making himself available for the position as long as the outgoing incumbent Flanagan was interested.

He did express a desire to get back involved in Westmeath football at some level.

Another interesting name could be that of outgoing Galway manager, Anthony Cunningham.

Cunningham is keen to and is expected to remain on in Galway for at least another term.

But if that didn't transpire, his experience with Garrycastle |and residency outside Athlone would make him a very obvious target.

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