For over an hour after the final whistle on Sunday at Cusack Park Garrycastle players, management, and supporters stood chatting happily, taking photographs, discussing events, and simply basking in the glory of arguably their sweetest Westmeath SFC victory.
A seventh county title was achieved by virtue of a sensible display, orchestrated by Dessie Dolan, who kicked five pressure frees and made 30 plays during a match he controlled. The fact that Garrycastle were managed by his father and hero, Des Dolan Senior, merely added to the glowing sense of satisfaction. “To get to where I got to in football was just one-on-one with him all them years,” Dessie Dolan said afterwards during a proud and emotional interview.
“These are the things. My dad, me, and Gary spent years, one-on-one on the pitch pretty much every day for 10 years. I can’t do it now because the body isn’t able. The drive in me comes from him. To reward him, like he’s 70 years of age. It would mean more to him than all the titles he's won. He won seven himself, I’ve won seven as a player. It means a lot. He was like a young buck out there.”
The respect between the Dolans was evident all afternoon and Des Senior was thrilled that his son was vice captain for this sweet success. “We are football people and that was the first time Dessie lifted the cup in seven championships,” the Garrycastle manager reflected. “That is his seventh medal, it was a tremendous victory especially for the younger lads on the panel. I won a few with Athlone, but this is a highlight because I had two sons playing and I had three nephews who won the cup against all of the odds.
“We seemed to be out of the championship two months ago, here we are as county champions. Great credit is due to the players; not me, the players; the young lads, who came into the team to freshen the whole thing up. They were absolutely outstanding.”
Alex Gardiner’s 26th minute goal which owed much to Dessie Dolan’s free and a smart James Dolan offload was a blow from which Mullingar Shamrocks never truly recovered. A second-half rally saw Shamrocks trim the deficit to one, but Garrycastle hit five of the next six points to regain the initiative. Shamrock’s boss Bernard Flynn felt that Garrycastle had been the superior outfit. “They got a good start against the wind but, being truthful, I said to the lads inside there that they gave me everything, but we just came up short,” was Flynn’s assessment. “Five or six of our big name players, who’ve been driving on the younger fellas all year, didn’t really perform and we couldn’t carry that. Some of the younger guys it’s their first time in that situation but full credit to Garrycastle, they got it spot on particularly against the wind. In the first half in particular we just didn’t turn up.”