Leah relishing Dubs bid for title retention

by Stephen Findlater

NA FIANNA’S Leah Caffrey says the Girls in Blue have their eyes firmly trained on retaining their All-Ireland crown as their National Football League season kicks into gear.
Dublin take on Cork – whose six-year All-Ireland winning streak came to an end last summer as Dublin lifted the title – on Saturday in the year’s first televised game at Croke Park.
Two weeks later, Mick Bohan’s side face their opponents from last year’s final, Mayo, in Castlebar in a double header with the men’s team that will also be broadcast live.
Na Fianna clubwoman Caffrey realises they’ll be the team to beat come the summer and that the upcoming games will be an opportunity to lay down a marker for the entire season.
“The title would be the biggest aim and we know other county teams want to take that away from us,” Caffrey told the Dublin Gazette at Dublin GAA’s season launch at Parnell Park.
“We’re just looking forward to getting back into it now. 2017 was last year and we’re focusing on this year. We haven’t won anything yet, and it’s going to be twice as hard this year to retain the title.
“We’ve loads of new girls in the squad now and there’s a lot of competition for places. The standard is there – it’s definitely going up because of the newer girls coming in.”
The Dubs made hard work of a spirited Westmeath side in Mullingar on Saturday, trailing by seven points early in the second half before eventually winning out by a five-point margin.
And Caffrey admits that, at this time of the year, it’s all about shaking off the ring-rust with the likes of Mayo, Cork and Kerry primed and ready to capitalise if they’re below their best.
“Because we played Mayo in the final last year it’s going to be very competitive when we go down and play them this year, and that’s before the men’s game as well.
“It’s about peaking consistently throughout the year, but peaking in the summer, during the championship, that’s the most important thing.”
Caffrey – who struggled with a knee complaint over the winter break as an exhausting season took its toll – admits the first few weeks back have been a challenge.
However, victories over Donegal and Westmeath have helped them ease their way in with much tougher challenges to come in the weeks ahead.
“At the minute we’re a bit rusty because we haven’t been playing with each other. Any games [we play] are getting experience under our belt.
“We started back in January there and we didn’t have that much pre-season but we got a good bit of fitness in and we got a good result against Donegal [in week one].”

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