Monday 16 September 2019

Westmeath journey a joy for Finnegan

Seán Finnegan. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Seán Finnegan. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Declan Rooney

Seán Finnegan faces a daunting test in his first final as a ladies' football manager, but he says his Westmeath side are not getting bogged down by the prospect of five straight losses to Dublin in the TG4 Leinster SFC decider.

For the fifth year in a row, Dublin and Westmeath play each other in the final (4.0 at Netwatch Cullen Park), and, 24 years since their second and last provincial win, Finnegan is excited by what he has seen in the county.

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An experienced coach in the men's game, Finnegan has been involved with Roscommon and Cavan in recent years and, after a positive spring, he hopes to see the county kick on to new heights.

"It's an exciting time. I'm very enthused by it. I don't have any baggage, I'm looking at a game to be won. I'm excited about it," said Finnegan, a native of Claremorris in Mayo.

"I took over in early January and didn't know any of the girls, I hadn't been involved in ladies' football. I came in with a clean slate and I found a fantastic response from the girls.

"We know we are going to face a massive challenge. I have got to be a realist and say Dublin are a serious outfit. They are going for three All-Irelands in a row. They are really professional, well-organised, a very well-coached team. We have to accept that challenge.

"We have a fantastic bunch of girls, our skillset is very high, but we are going to have to play at the absolute edge of our ability and hope Dublin don't, to close the gap."

Despite not previously being involved in the ladies' game, Finnegan has encountered his opposite number Mick Bohan on the sidelines before. Bohan was a coach with Clare when Finnegan worked with Roscommon back in 2016.

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The Westmeath manager has brought a very strong backroom team with him. Former All-Ireland winner Tommy Carr coaches the team alongside former county players Carol Finch and Damien Kelly.

It has taken a while for the rules of the ladies game to become second nature to Finnegan, but he has urged coaches from the men's and ladies' games to cross the divide.

"Fundamentally it's the same game, you're preparing a team physically and mentally to play big matches.

"In the last few years, I have been watching some of the bigger games, the standard is going up and up.

"But there aren't many ladies' inter-county teams that have someone of the calibre of Tom Carr heavily involved in the team. He does the coaching and strength and conditioning. His experience is massive.

"Watching him impart that to the girls, he knows what he is talking about. It can only benefit the ladies' game."

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