'We can't be all bad managers' - Westmeath boss Colin Kelly

Westmeath manager Colin Kelly says there is no better place to be than on the sidelines come tomorrow night
Westmeath manager Colin Kelly says there is no better place to be than on the sidelines come tomorrow night

WITH a host of teams looking a shot at redemption in this weekend’s All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers, Westmeath boss Colin Kelly says the men on the sidelines tomorrow night can’t be all bad managers.

The Midlanders host Armagh in an intriguing Round One Qualifier in Mullingar tomorrow night – a repeat of last year’s encounter.

While a dozen Westmeath players that lost to Laois two weeks ago in the Leinster Championship remain from last year’s panel, new boss Kelly has had to replenish the squad because of injuries and absentees.

But Kelly doesn’t accept he’s rebuilding the Westmeath side.

“I don’t really buy that (‘rebuilding’ term) because you have to do the best you can with what you have,” said Kelly. This is a common trend in GAA now where players are not committing. We all can’t be bad managers.

“I have my problems. ‘Geezer’ has his problems. So we can’t all be poor managers. The game of football that we knew 20-25 years ago is long gone. Guys are making choices now and it’s really hard keeping guys up at this level.”

Kelly moved on after spending three years with Louth where he won back-to-back promotions in 2016 and 2017. He guided Westmeath to a fourth place finish in Division Three, finishing behind, Fermanagh, Armagh and Longford.

On facing Armagh, Kelly said: “Like ourselves, they’re probably disappointed with their result against Fermanagh, but Fermanagh are a decent side.

“Kieran [McGeeney] has done well with the Armagh side as they had a great run last year in the Qualifiers, so it’s a competition they’re not afraid to express themselves in. And their Qualifier form doesn’t bear resemblance to their Ulster Championship form.

“I’ve come up against Armagh as Louth manager and I’ve come up against them this year with Westmeath and I’ve always found it difficult to get the better of them. They are very difficult opposition.”

Despite Westmeath’s morale-sapping Leinster defeat to Laois, Kelly still enjoys the cut and thrust of inter-county management.

“Of course, it can be frustrating but the bottom line is we all [managers] have a deep love of the game and I suppose when you think about it, we’re a bit mad to do it.

“If you weren’t there you’d be with the kids’ U9s team… What people don’t realise is when you come into inter-county management it does put your life on hold. Your family life suffers hugely.

“It’s a difficult position and people probably come up with an unfair analysis all the time and they don’t realise how much time goes into it. But, there is no better place to be than standing on the touchline on Saturday night trying to influence a group of lads and trying to get a result in the Championship.”