Westmeath captain Fiona Claffey says her side will face into Sunday’s TG4 Leinster Ladies Senior Football Championship final against All-Ireland champions Dublin with a positive attitude. Article by Declan Rooney
Claffey holds the belief that they can dethrone the eight-in-a-row chasing Sky Blues.
Only five points separated the sides when they met during the Lidl National Football League Division 1 campaign earlier this year, but in recent seasons Mick Bohan’s side have made straightforward progress though the provincial decider (Netwatch Cullen Park, Carlow, 4pm)
Manager Sean Finnegan took the Westmeath reins in January this year and they maintained their top-flight status, but Claffey (30) says the players are intent on making an impact in the Leinster and All-Ireland championship after defeat to Cork saw them exit last year’s All-Ireland at the quarter-final stage.
“Obviously the Leinster final last year, they won well enough in the end. There is no point in lying about it, Dublin have really set a high bar. Not just within Leinster but in the country,” said Claffey, who plays her club football in the capital with Foxrock-Cabinteely.
“They are All-Ireland champions. They are a phenomenal team, they are still quite young and I think they are getting better each year because they are playing together.
“We know what we are up against and we go into every game with a positive attitude and that’s exactly what we are going to do in the Leinster final.
“We’re talking before a Leinster final so I’m going to say we want victory in a Leinster final. After that we’ll regroup and we’ll focus on the group stages.”
Victory over Monaghan in the first round of the league was a huge boost for Westmeath, especially with a new management team in place, and for the remainder of the league they were able to relax somewhat and work on improving their squad.
As well as pushing Dublin close in awful weather conditions, they tested Mayo severely and defeated Tipperary in their last competitive game.
But that game took place on 7 April, and according to Claffey, Westmeath are eager to get back into the action at Netwatch Cullen Park. They lost last year’s final by 2-8 to 5-11 but Claffey feels they are more competitive this year.
“What Division 1 means to us is competing at senior level. We have been at senior for a number of years now and we want to push on a bit more and being in Division 1 helps us do that.
“There was an obvious improvement from last year and we still have more to improve on but all in all I think it was a decent league for us.
“We got to an All-Ireland quarter-final last year, we had a heavy defeat in that game so I think we’d like to push on another level from that of course. We’ll see how we go from there, but Leinster final is our first focus.
“This is my eighth season playing club football in Dublin so I know a lot of the girls from playing with and against them at club level.
“This is our fifth Leinster final in a row against Dublin as well so I am very familiar with them. I suppose we are just going to focus on ourselves and give it a go.”