Connaughton heads stateside

Westmeath goalkeeper and captain Gary Connaughton has opted to spend the remainder of the summer in the US. The decision by the long-serving custodian is a major blow to both his club Tubberclair and of course to Westmeath ahead of the qualifiers. Connaughton’s safe pair of hands, point saving ability and booming kick-out, along with his determination and experience, leave a big void to be filled at both club and county level. Tyrrellspass man Darren Quinn is set to take over the number one spot for the qualifiers.

It is a sign of the times that the affable and well-known keeper has been unable to secure summer employment locally despite his best efforts to do so. Speaking to Gary this week he explained that he is heading into his final year of a four year degree course in AIT in September. He informed both Pat Flanagan and club manager Martin McCabe a number of weeks ago that he would be forced to travel overseas if employment couldn’t be sorted here.

Connaughton finished his exams a month ago and nothing has materialised work-wise so he was left with little option but to travel stateside. Knowing Gary and his commitment to both club and county it is not a decision he would take lightly. College doesn’t come cheap these days though and it is difficult to blame anybody in his situation for doing likewise.

I spent the summers of 2000 (St Pat’s ) and 2002 (Connemara Gaels ) playing football in Boston and while it wasn’t nice to let down the club it was an experience I thoroughly enjoyed and would encourage any young footballer who has the option to try it out at least once. John Keane played with Connemara Gaels in 2003 and went on to collect an All-star award in 2004. The Gaels are still claiming credit for his success.

Connaughton is teaming up with The Wolfe Tones club in Boston. It’s 13-a-side football so with the extra space up front goals are more frequent. His presence between the sticks will be invaluable to The Tones though with his complexion it will be interesting to see how he handles the often extreme heat in Canton.

Interestingly Connaughton is likely to find himself in opposite corners to a number of familiar faces thousands of miles from home. It is widely rumoured that Dessie Dolan, along with Donegal’s Kevin Cassidy, is planning to team up with Donegal in Boston in mid July.

Before he departs Connaughton is hoping Tubberclair can get the better of Caulry when the sides meet tonight (Friday ). Caulry will be a difficult test but with Alan Coffey in red hot form and Fergal Wilson expected to be available Martin McCabe’s side should take both points on offer. If they do it will set Tubberclair up nicely and Connaughton will be back for the knockout stages should they get that far.


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