Hurling and football managers set to be ratified
In what is a boost for Westmeath senior hurlers, manager Joe Fortune has confirmed he will remain in charge of the side next year for what will be his third season at the helm.
There was speculation surrounding Fortune's future, especially in light of the vacancy in his native Wexford after Darragh Egan’s exit last month.
Fortune guided Westmeath to victory against Wexford in their penultimate Leinster senior hurling championship game.
However, defeat by Antrim combined with a Wexford win over Kilkenny in the final round relegated the Lake County to the Joe McDonagh Cup next season.
“Joe Fortune has agreed to remain in post for a third year as the Westmeath senior hurling team manager for 2024. Selectors and backroom team will be confirmed later. The Westmeath County Board wishes Joe and the team the very best of luck during the season ahead,” Westmeath GAA confirmed in a statement.
Westmeath finished bottom of Division 1 Group A this year, but beat Laois in a play-off to avoid demotion to Division 2A.
Fortune, a Dublin-based teacher, had Bishopstown man Paul O’Donoghue as his coach for the past two years along with former Dublin hurler Peter Kelly and Mullingar’s Eddie Casey.
Elsewhere, it is fully expected that Dessie Dolan will remain on as manager of the Westmeath senior football side following their strong performances in the All-Ireland series against Armagh, Galway and Tyrone.
It took a late goal to give Armagh a 1-13 to 1-12 victory, while Galway finished stronger when the sides met in TEG Cusack Park, though Westmeath played with 14 men for a crucial period. Dolan's men then drew with Tyrone in a game they could easily have won, only to see John Heslin's late free narrowly miss the target. Victory would have ensured the Lake County of qualification to the preliminary quarter-finals.
Dolan said getting players to believe they can perform at the elite level is key to making progress.
"The biggest job you have as a manager is getting players to believe they are good enough to take the field with the big teams. The players in Westmeath are equally as good, but at certain points in games they don't believe they are good enough to push on. That's the one ting I'd like to instil in them. I played compromise rules many years ago and being in the dressing room with the likes of Trevor Giles, Seamus Moynihan, all these players: I said, 'they're ordinary fellas, who work extraordinarily hard'. That's what they do: there's nothing different about them, so why should Westmeath players feel they are inferior to anyone? That's the belief thing that's big for counties in Division Three.
"The intensity the likes of Dublin and Kerry have, it's not innate. It's what they work on. There is an aura about them, but they don't take it for granted."
He is satisfied with the progress the team made in the All-Ireland series.
"We were very unlucky: John (Heslin) had that opportunity near the end. But against Armagh, we were very unfortunate, the ball was just flicked in the last minute and ended up in the net. We lost by a point.
“The Galway game, we did quite well in until the 55th minute when we had a man sent off. It was the 'group of death' and we were (considered) small fry. In terms of performances, that's where you need to be and when you get a taste of that, as a player, you want to be there. There's more media coverage, more interest: two of the three games were on television (GAAGO). The exposure players receive reflects their effort.”
It is expected the managers will be ratified at the Westmeath County Committee meeting on Wednesday evening.