Thursday 17 August 2017

Claffey's inside line on Jackies

“We’re definitely in a different place now,” says wing-back Claffey. Photo: Sportsfile
“We’re definitely in a different place now,” says wing-back Claffey. Photo: Sportsfile
Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

Westmeath footballer Fiona Claffey is immersed in the heart of Dublin on a daily basis.

She's an accountant in Trinity College's Sports Department and, six years ago, the demands of combining her studies, work and football saw her transfer from her native Kilbeggan to play her club football with current Leinster champions Foxrock-Cabinteely.

Some of Dublin's top players are among her closest friends. Yet tomorrow she'll be busting a gut to beat them when Westmeath take on the mighty Jackies in their third Leinster SFC final meeting in a row.

Westmeath captain Laura Walsh plays her club football with Na Fianna but Claffey's conflict is greater given that 'Fox-Cab' provide so many players to the county side.

"We're all best friends off the field but, on the field, you just focus on your own game. It's just like any other game, it doesn't faze me," she insists.

After contesting successive Division 2 finals, Westmeath finally achieved promotion by beating Cavan in this year's league final replay.

"We're definitely in a different place now," says wing-back Claffey.

Westmeath also ran Mayo to two points in last year's All-Ireland quarter-final so can they thwart Dublin's Leinster six in-a-row dream and avenge for last year's 28-point defeat?

"We know how amazing Dublin are," Claffey says. "But we'll just be playing our own game and not thinking about what happened last year or any previous year.

Her vantage point with Fox-Cab has given her some insight into why Dublin have become so dominant.

"They're very vocal, their communication is fantastic and they play with huge intensity. It's a big team effort rather than relying on individuals," she says.

Westmeath benefited from the return of key players like Leona Archibald and Laura Walsh last year but Claffey has been one of their constants.

"This is my 15th year. I made my debut at 15 and am going on 29," she says. "When I started out we were junior and one win a year was a good result for us! I'm lucky to have seen us really grow over the last few years. Now we need to develop even further."

Irish Independent

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