Westmeath legend, Dessie Dolan, has praised the impact homegrown county manager, Jack Cooney, has had since he took over at the end of last season.
Cooney is the first Westmeath native to take charge of the county since 1992 and has successfully guided his side to an Allianz League Division 3 final against Laois on Saturday.
The Kinnegad native has plenty of experience within the county, having been a selector under Páidí Ó Sé in 2004 when Westmeath won their only ever Leinster title.
Cooney has also managed Rhode, Newbridge, and his own club of Coralstown/Kinnegad while he was also part of Rory Gallagher’s backroom team with Donegal.
Dolan believes his local knowledge has endeared him to Westmeath football fans.
“People wanted someone who could give the team a bit of local passion and stuff like that and I think that side has really come into it.
“He’s very familiar with the club scene. He trained a couple of clubs there and was with Kinnegad the last time.
“People are delighted because there is a decent group of players there. There’s massive positivity about Jack since he’s come in.”
Dolan was part of the selection committee that chose Cooney for the position and believes his appointment will encourage other former players to get involved as a grassroots level.
“When you think of Páidí Ó Sé, he brought us our greatest day in Westmeath football and he was an outside manager.
They were perfect sound guys and all of that, but I suppose Jack is trying to promote other former players to get involved with coaching and managing the underage teams and development squads.
“I think now there’s a bit of continuity there. When you look at Dublin and compare ourselves to the different models around, I think it’s important to get players that played county football involved with the development teams.”
The lack of that “continuity” was a major inhibitor of the progression of Westmeath football, according to the 39-year-old and he believes that Cooney will begin to lay the foundations for future managers in order to best help the county.
“Before there was absolutely no continuity. If someone has the job three years then whenever they leave the job they leave all that good information and it’s gone, they bring it with them.
“That doesn’t in any way seem to be logical. I suppose what county teams are trying to do now with development teams is to have a system where there’s a bit of information on players going forward. A bit of continuity.
“I do think that now that Jack Cooney has the job and a couple of Westmeath selectors in with him and a couple of others involved with the Development Squads that there’s a continuity there.
“Jack is paving the way for other people to get involved with Westmeath and I’d imagine he’s open to seeing what other Westmeath guys might be able to help him out.
“Jack would be an extremely popular figure. He was the leader as a player and very organised and dedicated guy who was an example to us all when we were going in with the county team.”