Dessie Dolan has admitted when Westmeath came calling, he simply couldn't turn it down as he prepares to take his first steps into inter-county football management.
Dolan, 43, was still playing with his club Garrycastle up until last year but he had been serving as a selector under John Cooney, who has departed to take up the role of National Player Development Lead in Croke Park.
Cooney led the Lakemen to the inaugural Tailteann Cup back in July.
Speaking to the RTÉ GAA Podcast about his appointment, Dolan said his deep love for the inter-county environment made it an easy decision.
"Getting involved [as a sector] last year with Jack Cooney, I got on very well with the lads.
"I hadn't played inter-county since maybe 2014 and getting back involved with Westmeath, I probably realised the enjoyment and satisfaction I was getting from being involved with a team in an inter-county environment, and getting stuck into it.
"Having the good year we had with Jack and working with Jack, who was a mentor, was very enjoyable. I was as surprised as anyone when we got the news that Jack had to leave the job.
"The opportunity presented itself, the players were probably keen to have a bit of continuity, so I just stepped up to the role as a result of that. I'm kind of confident in so far as I have a lot of good people around me in Westmeath. I'm best mates with John Keane [who also served as a selector under Cooney] for a very long time and he has great coaching experience.
"The S and C guys are amazing, and the whole back-room team. That's really the reason I'm doing it... the continuity is a big factor. There's a couple of players who are maybe 30, 31, 32 - (we want to) give the another opportunity to push on and see what we can achieve with Westmeath."
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Dolan does not envisage sweeping changes. He wants continuity and consistency, although he's not ruling out brining in a fresh voice just to keep players on their toes.
"The one thing Jack is very strong at is creating a culture and environment where lads can excel and enjoy themselves. That's the real secret to success. You're trying to keep it a happy camp as much as possible because there's lots of stresses and strains on young lads nowadays.
"It will be largely the same set-up. At the same time I probably will be looking for another coach just to add to it.
"The market place got pretty swiped of a lot of good coaches when Mayo got Kevin McStay because he took the majority of them!
"You just need variety. The one thing I'd notice with management at inter-county level is, there's an expectation from players there. You have to bringing different ideas to them. I'll be looking to add something in that regard."
Dolan was generous in his praise of the departing Cooney, who gave decades of service to the county as a player, a selector under both Luke Dempsey and Páidí Ó Sé, and finally manager.
New Westmeath 🏐 manager Dessie Dolan says his long playing career delayed his move into coaching but he got a taste for it under Jack Cooney— RTÉ GAA (@RTEgaa) September 22, 2022
YT https://t.co/C7m7LAJzOP pic.twitter.com/Mp5HCFZUV5
"He just has a great way with the players, a great rapport," Dolan added.
"He's a great coach, a great mentor and a great fellah. He gave so much to Westmeath. The opportunity came up for me to get involved and it's very hard to turn down your own county.
"I've always been extremely committed to football all through my life. I think the environment of inter-county is what suits me. I enjoy going to training. I enjoy being first there, I enjoy being last to leave. I enjoy the company of the lads and the fun you can have with them.
"It's too good an opportunity to pass. If someone comes knocking and they want you to manage the county team, and you're very into football and it's your passion, I don't think you can let it pass to be honest."
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