Nineties men showing young guns the way
Kildare's Johnny Doyle in action in 2000. photographs: inpho
Tyrone's Stephen O'Neill with current Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice in 2000. photographs: inpho
Dessie Dolan in action for Westmeath in 1999. photographs: inpho
ALLIANZ FOOTBALL LEAGUE:An ever decreasing band of durable brothers are still lacing up their boots
Soon after half-time in Mullingar last Sunday, Westmeath were taking on water faster than they could find buckets for the bail-out. Already playing with 14 men, they’d watched Louth not only send Paddy Keenan into the fray but extend their lead to five points into the bargain.
It was time. As the newspapers had it the following day: D Dolan for P Bannon, 42 mins.
Straight away, Dessie Dolan gave the Westmeath side a bit of shape and a sprinkling of class any time he got on the ball. He scored a point himself in the course of a comeback that warmed the home crowd and by the time two late John Heslin frees split the posts, Westmeath had a one-point win to their name. A thumping good league hour, the sort that gets the blood up as you head for the cars and that everyone has forgotten by teatime.
“We had a great game against Louth,” Dolan says. “An absolute battle. We had a lad sent off after 20 minutes and were losing by a good few points so it was nice to get on and get involved. That’s a young team we have in Westmeath at the minute and it was great to be able to help them.”
Help them? At this stage, surely it should be the other way around. As handy as his youthful good looks are in getting him on the telly, Dolan is one of the longer-toothed players to be togging out in the league this year. Indeed, he is one of a select group of footballers still plugging away having first laced a boot at senior level in the 1990s.
Ah, the ’90s. To some of Dolan’s young team-mates, it must seem like the days of black and white. A fair portion of them were born in that same decade as he made his debut. Does he remember it? Damn right he does.
“Scored 1-6 up in Casement against Antrim in November 1998. I should have given up after that first game. It was all downhill after that first one, that was the problem. Sure they nearly have Casement redeveloped now. They’ll have it done by the time I give up!”
Dolan isn’t quite the longest lasting of the flames that were lit back then – Sligo’s Eamonn O’Hara has been on the go since 1994 and still hasn’t officially called time (although it’s looking increasingly to be the case that Kevin Walsh might have done it for him).
And if Dermot Earley manages to drag himself back into action at some point this year, his will be a career that’s been on the go since 1997. Of the players who’ll be togging out this weekend, Tomás Ó Sé has the whip hand over the rest, his Kerry debut coming in July 1998 in a Munster semi-final against Cork. Started at the top, stayed at the top.