Joe Fortune was praised for his "exceptional" commitment to Westmeath.

Fortune had an "exceptional" way with players says Westmeath chairman

Westmeath GAA County Committee Chairman Frank Mescall has paid tribute to departing Westmeath senior hurling manager Joe Fortune.

Speaking at last Thursday’s meeting in the Mullingar Park Hotel, the chairman acknowledged the outstanding contribution of the Wexford native and wished him well, expressing the view that he is very likely to return to management in the future.

“I was very, very sorry to see him go; you would judge by the statement we released - I asked Marie Lynagh (PRO) to steer away from the generic departure of a manager script to pay tribute to him. And Marie wrote the tribute, and I thought she did it brilliantly. That was us paying our tribute to Joe,” he remarked.

“What he brought on the field was very important, but what he brought to the players, looking after their needs, was more important. And he was exceptional at that, with his time, and I would say his love for Westmeath hurling. He certainly got to like the county and we wish him well.

"I think he is going to take a year out this year, but I have no doubt that he will be back in management.”

Referring to the league, the chairman said: “Our hurlers had a good year and were much more competitive this year in the league. We ran top teams to six or seven points and were within a couple of points with 10 minutes to go.”

However, they failed to sparkle in the Joe McDonagh Cup. “Our year went downhill after that (lhe eague); all because of one result, that against Kerry. Whether we took Kerry for granted or not, I don’t know. But on the day, Kerry were a really good team and they performed brilliantly. And we played second fiddle. So, after the first game, we were almost knocked out and found it hard to build up momentum. We finished strongly with two victories.”

As the search for a new manager begins, Ballycomoyle delegate Gerry Farrelly queried if there has been any progress on the matter. Former Westmeath hurler Derek McNicholas has joined the committee who are only starting the process, the chairman explained.

The committee which includes chairman Frank Mescall, secretary Brendan Shaw, Hurling Committee Chairman Willie Murphy and former county secretary Pat Reilly, is just beginning the process of interviewing potential candidates.

Already there is speculation linking Raharney’s Johnny Greville to the role. He has gained plenty of experience over the years and served as a selector under Fortune. It’s not certain that Westmeath will confine their search to the county, however, and it will be interesting to see if a high-profile manager from outside the county emerges. In that regard, former Waterford boss Davy Fitzgerald may well be considered.

Hurling committee details

Meanwhile, Johnny Rabbitt, Castlepollard, was unimpressed that the chairman did not know who is on the hurling committee, but Frank Mescall explained it is merely a sub-committee and he only appoints the chairperson. He does not know the make-up of the sub-committee, similar to the many other sub-committees that run separately to the county committee.

Mr Mescall advised that the chairman is Willie Murphy and secretary is Paul Murray, but he did not know who else was involved.

Mr Rabbitt queried, “Why don’t you know?”

The chairman advised that he had not been informed, nor did he ask for such details. “If they wanted something, I feel they would come to me,” he said, before adding: “It is a fair comment, why don’t I know? I will find out.”

Mr Rabbitt said he has been attending meetings as a club delegate for four years and was only at one hurling committee meeting.

The chairman explained that, with the various sub committees, he appoints only the main people. It’s a similar case with the football committee, he said.