Frankie Dolan of St Brigid’s scores the winning point in the 2013 AIB All-Ireland Senior Club Championship final against Ballymun Kickhams of Dublin at Croke Park. Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE.

Frankie gives inside track on eventful sporting career

by Kevin Egan

When he was in his pomp, there weren’t too many players who got as much coverage as St Brigid’s and Roscommon forward Frankie Dolan. There are many instances when the controversial attacker was in the news for something other than his incredible ability to rack up scores.

So, when lockdown came along, rather than working on making sourdough bread, Frankie decided that it was time to look at setting the record straight, and putting his whole story out there. His autobiography ‘Outside of the Right’, ghost written by Dan Dooner, will hit the shelves in the coming days. And while it was prompts from home that lit the spark of the idea in his mind, Dolan is happy to have put his thoughts out there on several of the various episodes in his life story that made him the character that he is.

On his underage career, and balancing football and soccer?

“I would have played up to youths level with Athlone Town, but we were more or less made to pick whether we wanted to play soccer or Gaelic. That’s the way it was back then which was putting pressure on lads instead of trying to play the two games which is encouraged nowadays. Soccer would have been my first choice when I was younger. I was probably a better soccer player than I was a Gaelic player.

“I played U-12s at St Brigid’s and I didn’t play again until I was minor. I went back playing that year with Tony Gavin and Danny Murray and I really enjoyed it and I stuck with it since. I suppose with the soccer that was the end of it."

On how far soccer might have taken him?

“I don’t know. I’d like to think probably at least Division One. I would have played with lads in Bohs who would have gone on to have good careers in what is the Championship now. I didn’t see much difference in me and them back then. When we played in Athlone with the youths, we beat all the Belvederes, the Kevin’s Boys, Home Farm, we won leagues and cups, Athlone back then were very strong."

On his Roscommon playing career?

“I don’t think I ever really got a fair crack of playing with Roscommon. If anything happened I was to blame; whether I was to blame or not, I was still to blame. I thought communication over the years was very poor. Probably Gay Sheeran was the man that I found the best at communicating. A lot of people will probably find that mad but I thought he was very good.

“I wear my heart on my sleeve and when I played for Roscommon I always gave it 100 per cent whether it was training or matches or whatever it might be. I’d like to get a crack at managing the U-21s or seniors some day down the line. I’m coaching and managing the last couple of years; I’m only starting off so maybe in a few years when I get a bit more experience I can get a shot with a county team."

On discipline, the infamous naked pool game, and his fractured relationship with officials?

“There were a few instances where I got in trouble, but I used to play on the edge, and I needed to play on the edge. I got sent off a few times, but not as often as some people would make out.

“What happened up in Derry, the craic with the pool, was just lads messing, the full story is in the book of how we ended up there, and how it was just nonsense among young lads with no-one else around.

“We had to deal with that ourselves, nobody came to us. That wasn’t easy. I had to move to Australia because I was fed up of it and I packed in my job in Tullamore Foods just to get away. Other players from other counties were involved in their own similar instances, again nothing malicious but just messing, and that never got out the same way.

“In general, players are looked after so much better nowadays. You’ve got to mind them. I’m a manager and I’ll always say it, I need the players more than they need me. You need them on side and on board as much as you can and you need them happy. If a player like myself back in the day was out of work, you have no money coming in and you are drawing the dole in the post office in Athlone. This is the year after the Connacht final and you’d wonder why didn’t Roscommon County Board sort me out with a job, get me something. I always had to sort myself out in the end and you’d wonder did they really want me there."

On leaving the panel, and having conversations with both Páidí Ó Sé and Tomás Ó Flatharta about transferring to Westmeath?

“I think we played Clare in the league and I wasn’t started for some reason, and I wasn’t told or whatever. Communication, again! I had enough after that and I just packed it in myself. Páidí got in touch with me a couple of weeks later and I met him and I’m glad I didn’t take him up on his offer. It was too quick after packing in Roscommon.

“To be honest the real reason was that I didn’t want to be alienating Roscommon supporters. I had the opportunity a few years after to join Westmeath but that didn’t come through which I was disappointed with in the end."

On his Westmeath connections?

“I went to school in Westmeath, more or less grew up in Athlone. My uncles and cousins played with Westmeath. Dad (Frank) played with Westmeath and had a business in Athlone. I had a big connection with Westmeath probably more so than I have with Roscommon."

On whether he would go back and do it all again, in the modern era?

“No. I enjoyed it in my time. It’s an amateur sport. People say the teams back then went out drinking every night. Teams went out drinking after a Championship match. That’s the way it was. You go out for pints after the matches and you were back training two days later. Nowadays you have no lifestyle. Are players happy with that? Maybe they are.

“Your weddings, your nights out, your holidays, that’s changed the past few years. With Covid, players probably see a little bit of light, that they mightn’t be training 12 months of the year now. The last three or four years some counties are probably training harder than professional teams. Is it worth it? I don’t think so."

On what the future holds for the current St Brigid’s team, and whether they have the potential to emulate the All-Ireland team of 2013?

“I know a couple of the younger lads coming through, they would have played last year. They were sort of in training with us but they didn’t really play, they were very young. There are a couple of really good lads there. A lot will depend on a few of the older lads staying on and bringing them through, the likes of Paul McGrath, Shane Cunnane, the Derwins, there are lots of good footballers. If they can keep that bunch together, maybe they could go all the way one day. It will take time."