Friday 15 December 2017

Westmeath boss Hackett facing player revolt after league woe

Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

IN the latest outbreak of player power, beleaguered Westmeath football manager Brendan Hackett is coming under fire in the wake of his side's disastrous league campaign.

Talks were scheduled to take place after a training session last night to thrash out the issues. This followed a meeting on Monday night between some players and key county board members.

It is believed the players made clear their unhappiness with Hackett and his stewardship of their football team. Hackett has overseen a seven-game losing streak and relegation to Division 3 of the National Football League.

Now senior players and some U-21s who reached the Leinster final are questioning the manager's performance as they begin preparations for their championship opener against the winners of Wicklow versus Carlow on June 6.

Players were reluctant to speak about the issue last night, while county board officials responded with a blanket "no comment" when contacted by the Irish Independent. Hackett was unavailable for comment.

Westmeath football has been in a spiralling slump since the 2009 league, in which they also lost all seven games in Division 1 to be relegated under Tomas O Flatharta. They exited last year's Leinster championship following a crushing defeat to Dublin at Croke Park, before suffering a 10-point loss to Meath in the All-Ireland qualifers, following which O Flatharta resigned.

Hackett, former team manager of Longford and Offaly, but most recently chief executive of the Athletics Association of Ireland, was appointed in September. A native of Monaghan, he was an early proponent of using psychology to improve GAA teams. Hackett has a wide view of his role with Westmeath. He brought in former Olympic boxing champion Michael Carruth and canoeing Olympian Eoin Rheinisch as part of his backroom team.

At his first media conference as team manager, he said: "I would see it as director of football as well. If you see Brendan Hackett as just managing the senior football team, you are wasting an opportunity, because Brendan Hackett can offer so much more because of the background and experience I have."

He has support among some fans who agree with his view that Westmeath are in transition, but senior Westmeath players are appalled at the run of form and can't wait for a few years to see pride in their county restored.

Top star Dessie Dolan didn't join Hackett's squad for the start of the league and experienced Denis Glennon opted out after early-season defeats.

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