Westmeath manager Dessie Dolan pictured at Pairc Esler.

Dolan ‘very disappointed’ after narrow defeat to Derry

“Being honest, I’m very disappointed because I thought the game was there for us before they got that late goal (via Emmett Bradley in the 65th minute)”.

These initial post-match thoughts from team manager Dessie Dolan were very much in line with the views of loyal Lake County supporters and scribes present in perfect conditions for football in Newry last Saturday night, Westmeath exiting the race for the Sam Maguire Cup after a great defensive effort had almost conjured up a sensational win against the Division 1 league champions.

Dolan also bemoaned the concession of the first goal, scored by outstanding defender Conor McCluskey in the 33rd minute. “We had decent momentum before both their goals,” Dolan opined, “and Derry were vulnerable tonight. But that is the strength of the Derry defenders, they can break lines very well. We had defended resolutely, but we needed to keep the scoreboard ticking over. We missed three ‘45s and we wasted some other good opportunities.

“It is cruel really and the lads are disappointed. We sensed we had an opportunity tonight, and we matched them throughout. Over the last two years, we have played six games in the Sam Maguire Cup and have only one draw to show for our efforts. I feel we deserved more. I am proud that the lads showed they can go toe-to-toe with these top teams, but I feel we deserved at least one win.”

When he was asked about potential retirements in his squad, Dolan responded: “I don’t know, to be honest. Lads will take time to reflect. We have some massive servants in that dressing room.”

In relation to his own position, he laughed when queried about the length of his contract, stating: “I’m not sure whether I have a contract or not. Not a clue! Management is challenging, and the league has become more important.

“I’m delighted with promotion to Division 2 and we came close to a win in the so-called ‘group of death’, but we just couldn’t get over the line.”

When he was asked for an assessment of Derry, Dolan was magnanimous.

“Their execution was not up to their best standards, but they are still well able to play. Mickey Harte settled the ship tonight.”

I don’t know how he has listened to some of the stuff that has been said and written about him. I feel sorry for him, given his personal situation. He has been an incredible manager,” he concluded.