Mullingar Shamrocks

Founded 1953

Co. Westmeath

Farewell to Dessie ...

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Farewell to Dessie ...

Two or three years ago we wrote in these notes that 'He hasn't gone away you know' after he unhinged the Mullingar Shamrocks defence with a wonderful cross-field pass in an unimportant ACL Div.1 match on a miserable Saturday afternoon in Springfield. He wasn't as old as we thought at the time; it was just that he had been around for a very long time. The he in question of course was Dessie Dolan and now that he told the world on Sunday evening that he is permanently gone from the championship fields of Westmeath, it is fitting that we acknowledge his contribution to football.

Shamrocks period of dominance ended as the Garrycastle period of pomp began. We can claim that our strike rate was better as we added eighth senior titles to our Roll of Honour over a fifteen year stretch between 1986 and 2000 with Tom Ormsby, Michael O'Reilly, Michael 'Spik e' Fagan and Pearse Corroon winning eight medals each. It took Garrycastle, Dessie and Doron Harte nineteen years to accumulate the eight titles.

Despite our dominance over different eras, the championship paths of the clubs regularly crossed. Mullingar Shamrocks hadn't gone away either but we have to admit that Garrycastle had our measure more often than not. However we did manage to win the four-in-row between 1992-1995 and had the satisfaction of defeating Garrycastle in the 2012 final and ending the green and red's quest to become the fourth club to complete the difficult sequence. It took a replay and there is no harm in reminding Garrycastle that they held a nine point lead early in the second half of the drawn final before Shamrocks recovered, the sides finished level at 3-9 each with Shamrocks winning the replay by a single valuable point. A warning from the past that big leads can be lost when the spirit is willing.

Mullingar Shamrocks became very familiar with Dessie's greatness on the county final stage as we played Garrycastle in the finals of 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014 and including replays, the 2014 final was the sixth final meeting of the clubs in five years. Dessie was top scorer in the majority of the ten county finals in which he played but he reserved his master class for the 2014 final when Mullingar Shamrocks gave him a free hand and a stage to display his full catalogue of skills (which sometimes, but not in the 2014 final, also included helping referees to make their decisions, a characteristic shared by all great players!). Wearing the number 11 jersey, he played more like an American football quarter back that day as he dropped deep and controlled the match as he won possession and sprayed passes around Cusack Park that stretched Shamrocks to breaking point. Adopting a free role, he dropped into defence when required, made himself available for passes all over the pitch, picked up breaking ball, engineered fouls, and scored 0-5 from frees from a variety of angles and distances and treated the Westmeath public to a football master class as he led Garrycastle to a surprise 1-11 to 0-8 victory. The Westmeath Examiner recognised Dessie's contribution with the headline 'Masterful Dolan leads Garrycastle to seventh title'.

The 2014 final came in the year that Dessie retired from inter-county fare; now he has played his last senior championship match and the fact that the most honoured footballer in the history of Westmeath (no one can match his medal collection) was still active and committed to his club cause at 40-years-of-age and well past his best was remarkable and this loyalty to Garrycastle is indicative of one of the qualities that made for Dessie's greatness and is an example to every young and not so young footballer in the county. Until next year's junior championship ...

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