When the topic of picking a ‘Greatest 15’ arises in GAA circles, it is often met with rapturous debate and endless disagreement.
We left the arduous task of picking ‘Westmeath’s Greatest Club 15’ from the past 20 years, in the hands of the men who have played with and against some their counties finest players. Our panel included Dessie and James Dolan of Garrycastle, 8x Westmeath SFC Champions, and former All-Ireland Club Finalists. Leaving it solely in the hands of two Garrycastle stalwarts would have been unfair, so we drafted in Conor Moore, of Conor’s Sketches fame and more importantly in this case, a former Mullingar Shamrocks player.
In order to come to a democratic conclusion, we added the rule that there could only be a maximum of 4 players per club, which the lads were happy to abide by, until they had to start picking the team!
After brief deliberation, it was decided that Cathal Mullin (Garrycastle), winner of 8 Senior Titles should be our Number 1. His “consistency over such a long period of time” and his ever presence in Garrycastle’s ‘Golden Era’ was the key factor in getting the nod.
Honourable Mention: Gary Connaughton (Tubberclair).
Full Back Line:
The Garrycastle influence continued in to the full-back line with Mark McCallon a unanimous choice at corner back, joined by Mullingar Shamrocks’ Kieran Gavin at full-back , a player Dessie has shared “some great battles with”. St. Lomans’ Paddy Dowdall completed the Full-Back Line, with Conor and James describing him as “a warrior” and “a man you always want on your team”.
Honourable Mentions: John Keane (Rosemount), Seanie Loughlin (The Downs), Eddie Moore (Mullingar Shamrocks)
The line that probably caused the least debate between the trio. They opted for Castledaly legend Derek Heavin at Number 5, Man of the Match in the 2008 County Final and still lining out for his club at 41 years old. Holding the centre is St. Lomans’ Paul Sharry, flanked by Mullingar Shamrocks stalwart Donal O’Donoghue who Dessie described as “a cert” to make their team.
Honourable mentions: Michael Curley (Mullingar Shamrocks) , Michael Ennis (Ballinagore), James Dolan (Garrycastle).
Westmeath has been blessed with some of Ireland’s finest midfielders over the years, making it arguably the most difficult line of the field to choose. After much debate, the pairing of Ger Egan of Tyrrellspass and St.Loman’s talisman, John Heslin were chosen as a result of some folklore-worthy, individual performances in recent times. Giving them the nod ahead of yet another All-Star in Ruari O Connell and Garrycastle hero David Shaughnessy. “We obviously don’t think much of All-Stars in Westmeath” joked Dessie!
Honourable Mentions: Ruari O Connell (Athlone), David Shaughnessy (Garrycastle), Dennis Corroon (Mullingar Shamrocks), Gordon Duffy (Castledaly).
After the migraines created from trying to pick a midfield partnership, the half -forward line was much more straight forward when trying to come to a decision. At 10 is John Smith of The Downs, a class act who was able to carry his team through many battles. Alan Mangan (St Malachy’s) was chosen “on the 40”, a wonderful ball player who could carry when needed and knew where the posts were. Doron Harte went in at no.12, the versatile Garrycastle man captained his team to 3 senior championships and has been a leader throughout his career.
Honourable Mentions: Conor Lynam (St. Loman’s), Gary Dolan (Garrycastle), Fergal Wilson (Tubberclair).
Full Forward Line:
“The Ronaldo of Westmeath Football” Dessie’s first thought when asked about Denis Glennon (Tyrellspass), “he would take his top off too if you gave him the chance!”, putting him straight in at corner forward without hesitation. His clubmate Martin Flanagan joins him at full-forward, James describing Martin as “magical with the ball in hand”. Last but not least, the man completing our XV is “The King” of Westmeath football, Dessie Dolan (Garrycastle). Dessie has been the undisputed number one in Westmeath for the best part of the 20 years acting as both playmaker and scorer in chief for Garrycastle, as they have been the dominant force.
Honourable Mentions: JP Casey (Castledaly), Luke Loughlin (The Downs), Paddy Mulvihill (Garrycastle).
Team in Full:
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