Westmeath ladies’ football manager Sean Finnegan. PHOTO: SAM BARNES/SPORTSFILE

Finnegan and Westmeath ladies relishing Rossie challenge

All roads lead to Longford next Sunday where the Westmeath lady footballers will face Roscommon at 1pm with a place in the All-Ireland intermediate championship final as the prize for the winners.

When Lake County manager, Sean Finnegan, spoke to the Westmeath Examiner last Saturday, he was eagerly looking forward to facing up to our western neighbours.

At the outset, he stated: “Every time you play in an All-Ireland semi-final, even though it might be the last Sunday in November, it is fantastic.

“I’ll be brutally honest, that’s where we expected to be when we started back, and that’s not being disrespectful to Longford or Louth. It’s a big challenge, but it’s great to be involved, and we’re really looking forward to it.”

When asked had he much information on next Sunday’s opponents, the Westmeath bainisteoir responded: “Up until last Sunday week, we didn’t even think about them. We dealt with Longford first and then Louth. It was only after we had beaten Louth that our minds turned to Roscommon.

“For the last few days, I’ve been watching their two matches this season against Wexford and Offaly. That’s the benefit of everything being on social media.

“We’ve looked at them in quite a bit of detail. They are a very good outfit and have been around a while at this level. They were unlucky in last year’s semi-final and they are a battle-hardened outfit. They are there on merit and we are going to have to play well to beat them.”

The carrot for the victors in Glennon Bros Pearse Park is huge, with the final scheduled to take place in Croke Park on Sunday, December 20. Finnegan concurred, as follows: “It’s a massive incentive. We were training this week in very poor weather. Last Wednesday night was as miserable a night as I have ever been out.

“But for any girl to play in Croke Park on All-Ireland final day is a dream and that is the focus in front of us regardless of when the final is on. In some ways, the game being played before Christmas is an even greater incentive.”

He was delighted to report that everybody had come through the Louth match in Ashbourne unscathed. “There is nothing pressing on the injury front, just a few sores and bruises. Everybody is fit and mad to go. We have 32 girls on the panel.

“Unfortunately, Tara Fagan broke her hand against Longford, but she is getting her cast off next week and is training harder than anyone. That just shows you that everybody wants to get into the match day squad.

“Jill Draper is another girl that hasn’t played all year. Likewise, Fiona Coyle, our vice-captain. But they are back training and they want to be involved,” he stated.

Finnegan went on to explain how training has changed since Covid-19 arrived to totally disrupt all aspects of society: “We’ve been back since mid-September and we’ve met up 26 times. There has been fantastic attendance at training. I suppose most girls have nowhere else to go in these strange times,” he added jovially.

“Yes, things are different. The girls arrive in their cars. They get out and put on their boots on the side of the road, train, get back into their cars and go home.

“We don’t meet. We only talk on the pitch. We don’t have items such as video analysis or food. But if that’s the price we have to pay, so be it, as we are a privileged bunch to be able to do this.

“We’ve had a few Covid issues, but nothing major thank God. We observe our protocols and keep it fairly strict, because the priority is for the girls to go back safe to their families.

“We train in St Loman’s, Mullingar during the week and Rosemount at the weekend. Naturally, we want to train on a grass pitch to replicate match days. We have the full lights in Lakepoint Park and a fantastic surface. I’m really grateful to St Loman’s for giving us that facility,” he added.

In conclusion, Finnegan stated: “Our total focus is on Roscommon. We’d be very foolish to be thinking about anything other than this game. We’ll go in as prepared as we have been for every game. The confidence is high, training is going great, but it’s all on the day.

“The girls are looking forward to it and, please God, next Sunday evening we’ll be preparing for an All-Ireland final (against Meath or Clare).”

– Gerry Buckley

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