Arsenal’s Gilly Flaherty on the Conti Cup Final

The top two teams in the country go head-to-head at Barnet FC tonight when the battle for domestic silverware comes to a thrilling conclusion with the Continental Cup final….

Both the unbeaten FAWSL champions Arsenal and their opponents, the FA Womens’ Cup holders Birmingham City, will be chasing the Double when they walk out at Underhill Stadium.

And while it finished honours even four days ago when the two sides met in the final match of their league campaigns, both teams will surely come out all guns blazing in north London.

‘We expect it to be physical and it’s not going to be easy,’ Arsenal defender Gilly Flaherty told She Kicks yesterday. ‘We can’t worry about what they are going to do, we just have to go out there and do the best we can. 

‘Obviously we’ll show Birmingham respect, but at the end of the day it’s not a point or three points, it’s a cup and we want to put our name on that cup again this year.’

Having been the first team to get their name on the Conti Cup – Arsenal beat the Blues 4-1 last September to win the inaugural trophy – the Gunners know they need to repeat the trick tonight to finish the season as top dogs.

‘We want to be the most successful team in the league and to do that we have to win [tonight],’ added Flaherty.

Both sides come into the game having played five matches in 18 days. During that spell, the Gunners not only battered Barcelona 7-0 on aggregate in the Champions League but sealed the league title unbeaten too.

Flaherty, who works full-time at a primary school and coaches Millwall’s under-13s three times a week, says their packed schedule has left little time for Laura Harvey’s side to celebrate.

‘I don’t think it has quite sunk in yet,’ she said. ‘With us having the Champions League and the Continental Cup final around it we haven’t really had any time to celebrate.

‘It’s a great achievement and a relief knowing it’s over and we’ve won it. Last year we were second for most of the year. This year has been more assured, we didn’t want that to happen again and we made sure we were in control of our season rather than relying on other people.’

The 21-year-old, who won the Quadruple as a teenager in her first full senior Arsenal season, puts that consistency down to the return of past players Alex Scott and Kelly Smith and the bedding in of newer ones.

‘It was about settling in and getting a rhythm going,’ she said. ‘I think people assumed we had a settled team [last year] and we all knew how to play with each other but we hadn’t.

‘This year we’ve been together a lot longer and the additions we’ve got have just strengthened us.’

Having a full group of players who can step up to the plate rather than a core of 11 who are always relied upon has bolstered Arsenal in their recent busy spell.

‘Luckily we’ve got a strong squad and we can rotate it,’ Flaherty added. ‘People can step up and do a job when they’re needed.’

Flaherty says skipper Jayne Ludlow has also done her bit, the Wales international encouraging the team even when she was not fit to play.

‘It’s been hard to see her injured but she’s our club captain and she’s been around training and games and when things have got tough she’s been there, helping to bring out the best in us,’ she said.

Flaherty, who is fighting to get over a shoulder ligament injury picked up 11 days ago against Doncaster Rovers Belles, hopes to continue to play her own part at Barnet this evening.

Her injury confined her to the bench against Barcelona but she came on as a substitute against the Blues on Sunday and was planning to give it her all in training last night.

‘Hopefully I’ll be getting a couple of injections tomorrow before the match,’ she said. ‘Tonight at training I’m hoping to get through the full session and hope to put myself in for selection. 

‘It’s all down to [that] and me putting myself in the best position I can to be in that starting 11.’

TICKETS ARE STILL AVAILABLE for tonight’s Continental Cup final:
Wednesday, 10 October, 7pm @ Underhill Stadium, Barnet FC


(Images: The FA via Getty Images)

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