Westmeath supporters in joyful mood as they await the presentation of the cup to team captain, Kevin Maguire in the Hogan Stand. Pics: J McCauley.

A memorable evening for Westmeath football in Croke Park

Dessie Dolan is perhaps Westmeath’s greatest ever footballer, but he has proven a winner as a manager also in only two short years at the helm.

On Saturday, Dolan, still relatively inexperienced at inter county level having served as a selector under Jack Cooney, led his side to victory over Down in the National Football League Division 3 final at Croke Park, on what was a memorable evening for Westmeath football. Though outsiders on paper, Westmeath showed the kind of battling qualities that made Dolan such a great competitor in his playing days.

Alongside Dolan is fellow 2004 Leinster final winner, John Keane, the team’s coach. Both men have All-Stars - Dolan one (2004) and Keane two (‘04 and ‘08) - so they are well placed to lead.

Following Saturday’s win, Dolan hailed the character his team showed as the game progressed and even without players of the calibre of Kevin Maguire and John Heslin in defence and attack, they were still able to manufacture a win. Heslin played a late cameo role due to injury, while Maguire played no part but had the honour of picking up the cup in the Hogan Stand. Having earned promotion the previous Sunday in unspectacular fashion (they lost to Sligo, while Down overcame Clare) Westmeath came away from Croke Park with a 2-10 to 0-13 win off the back of two Jonathan Lynam goals to claim the silverware.

Dolan said he was delighted his side came out on top against what he described as a “very dangerous” Down team.

"It was a great performance," he said. "The fact that we played Down - they are a serious team; they have scored a lot of goals and have a strong squad. So we knew it was going to difficult.

“To keep them from getting a shot on target was really important. We got the two goals the other end and that proved vital. It gave us momentum. "The first 15 minutes we were hanging on. Down run at you in numbers, they are very dangerous. We just held tough and built our way into the game, a couple of scores then a crucial goal gave us a good jump.

"From that point on it was nip and tuck. But they showed great character in the second half. We're fortunate this year the subs have made a good impact coming off the bench and I it was like that again today."

Westmeath captain Kevin Maguire raises the cup following Westmeath's success against Down in the Division 3 final at Croke Park.

There will be some deserved celebrations, but not a lot: Westmeath must quickly turn their attention to the Leinster championship opener against Wicklow next Sunday in O’Moore Park, Portlaoise.