Written by Oliver Walker Peel
At the beginning of 2020, very few Rovers fans would have been aware of a then-Preston starlet by the name of Tyrhys Dolan. By the end of it, he was the name on everyone’s lips, and for the all the right reasons.
Our first summer signing was one initially met with little fanfare, a player initially brought in to hone his craft in the Under-23’s. A winger by the name of Tyrhys Dolan had been acquired from Preston North End, and it seemed ostensibly like he would add to a decent under-23’s side containing the likes of Brad Lyons, Jack Vale and Stefan Mols.
But, the former Manchester City academy player had other ideas as Dolan’s determination and drive now synonymous to him first revealed itself to Blackburn fans. As a result, it saw him immediately training with the first-team, an opportunity he grasped with both hands. Injury to Rovers’ number nine Sam Gallagher, coupled with his dazzling impressions made in training, meant that his first outing in the Blue-and-White halves came sooner than perhaps anyone expected; a Saturday lunchtime kickoff on the Fylde Coast away at Fleetwood Town in a pre-season friendly.
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Coming on at half-time at the Highbury Stadium, it took no time at all for Tyrhys to acclimatise to first-team football. With his first touches of the ball that day, he advanced down the right wing with blistering pace, before whipping in a delightful ball for Adam Armstrong to guide home. It was at that point when I knew we had an incredible talent on the pitch, but I failed to realise then that we had a trailblazer and a role model off it.
2020 was quite the rollercoaster for Dolan. Starting the year amongst the North End U18s setup, it looked like the world laid at his feet. The talented attacker played three times for Preston’s academy in the FA Youth Cup, including a goal against Rovers at Ewood Park in a 4-2 defeat that terminated their progression in the competition. It looked like Tyrhys’ path to first-team football was situated at Deepdale, but it was not to be. Surprisingly released at the end of the season, it did not take long for other clubs to inquire about the starlet, as Blackburn beat out competition from Carlisle United and Fleetwood Town, who both expressed interest, and he was back on track to achieving his dream of becoming a footballer once more.
On the pitch, Dolan was slowly becoming a focal point for Tony Mowbray’s side. Making his professional debut against League One outfit Doncaster Rovers in the Carabao Cup as a second-half substitute, he announced himself on the big stage three weeks later with a starring performance at home to Gareth Ainsworth’s Wycombe Wanderers. Scoring once and winning the penalty for another, he became a breath of fresh air, adding a new dimension to an attack containing the likes of Joe Rothwell, Ben Brereton and Adam Armstrong. Netting again in the following game at Derby County, Dolan seemed irrepressible and unstoppable, his buoyancy and energy transmitting through the dressing room. On October 24th though, Tyrhys’ life unexpectedly came crashing down.
Jeremy Wisten was a Manchester City academy teammate of Tyrhys Dolan, who sadly passed away at his home in Wythenshawe at the age of 18. A footballing talent who departed far too soon, and a young man who never got the chance to experience the best years of life, the Rovers man has spoken candidly about his loss. He spoke this week on ITV, eloquently delving into the life of his friend. He stated that “he was the one person you wouldn’t expect it from”, saying that he made sure Wisten was with him at any point, as he made Tyrhys feel happier. Using the tragic and heartbreaking event to make a difference, he has now become ambassador for Go Again, an organisation to provide footballers released from clubs mental support, Dolan is using his high-profile status as a Championship footballer to inspire others. This has unsurprisingly been met with universal support on social media, as Rovers fans fully appreciate how lucky we are to have such an inspirational figure within our ranks.
His finest moment on the pitch came back at Deepdale in November, as Rovers returned to a venue we had not achieved success at since 2015. Dolan returned to his former employers looking enact revenge for his release just a few months prior, and after replacing Adam Armstrong at the 68th-minute mark of the match, he found himself at the back post after an exemplary cross from Ben Brereton, before smashing the ball into an unguarded goal. He ran away in celebration, pointing to the sky in commemoration for the best friend he lost so tragically just weeks before, a touching moment that brought joy to the lives of many in the dark times we currently find ourselves in.Embed from Getty Images
Tyrhys Dolan has had many setbacks in the past year, but with setbacks bring resilience, and he has proven that he has that in spades. He possesses empathy and unselfishness that many people can only dream of, the wisest of heads on young shoulders.
Tyrhys, you’re an absolute credit to yourself and your family and long may it continue, both on and off the pitch.
Thanks for reading.