THE overall progression of ladies Gaelic football in Westmeath in recent years has been extremely noteworthy, and it could reach another landmark this weekend when the Lake County senior ladies contest the Tesco HomeGrown National Football League Division 2 final against Galway on Saturday (2pm, Parnell Park, Dublin).
The winner of the contest will win a place in the top division of ladies county football for next year and given Westmeath’s almost meteoric rise from playing in Division 4 only three years ago, sealing promotion to the top-tier would represent a notable achievement for the county.
Managed by former Westmeath hero and Tyrrellspass star Martin Flanagan, Westmeath have enjoyed a fruitful Division 2 campaign, winning six of their eight outings. However, a strong Galway side, which won all eight of their league proper fixtures, will be favourites to clinch promotion. The Tribeswomen comfortably brushed aside Meath in their semi-final fixture on a 3-23 to 0-11 scoreline, leaving observers in no doubt as to their prowess.
Westmeath, who memorably won the All-Ireland Intermediate title in 2011, secured their place in the league decider with a 2-16 to 2-9 semi-final victory against Down.
County board chairperson Geraldine Giles said Westmeath’s appearance in another high-profile final is part of an ongoing process of continuing to bolster the strength of ladies football in the county at all levels.
“The senior team has made great progress in the last few years and everyone in the county is delighted with it,” said Geraldine.
“The Intermediate final win was a great landmark for ladies football in Westmeath but we were determined not to rest on our laurels and have pushed forward since. We had U16 and U14 teams in All-Ireland finals last year and our minors in the Leinster 'A’ final last Monday. We also had an U16 Shield final last weekend, so the drive is on to keep Westmeath progressing at all levels.
“It’s so important we continue looking at ways of improving our underage systems and we’re currently looking at ways to make our clubs and coaching systems stronger.
“In Westmeath we’re very fortunate to have had some magnificent coaches involved with the senior team from Peter Leahy to Alan Mangan and now Martin Flanagan, who is given superb assistance by Jack Cooney (selector to Páidí ” Sé when Westmeath won the Leinster SFC in 2004). We’ve had great continuity in our coaching structure and this helps very much,” she added.
Garrycastle duo Laura Brennan and Lauren Kennedy could feature in Saturday’s final, with Brennan, one suspects, is a shoe-in to start in the defence. Kilbeggan’s Fiona Claffey and Triona Durkan are also integral parts of Martin Flanagan’s Lake County outfit.
In the league semi-final win against Down, Killucan’s Fiona Leavy stood-out for Westmeath, with the captain of the 2011 All-Ireland Intermediate winners contributing seven points (including five frees) to see Westmeath through.
Ciara Blundell, Maud Annie Foley and Karen Hegarty also chipped-in with a vital 1-5 between them, with Blundell scoring Westmeath’s goal from the penalty spot. Rochfortbridge’s Nicola Judge also had a great impact having come on as a substitute, scoring 1-1, and could be in contention for a starting berth this weekend.
“We’re all looking forward to another great occasion for Westmeath ladies football and hopefully the team can put in a performance to be proud of,” Giles said.