West Ham Women's Flaherty driven by 'pain' of 2018
PUBLISHED: 14:00 04 May 2019
Gilly Flaherty admits the pain of being an unused substitute in last year's SSE Women's FA Cup final is fueling her bid for glory in this season's competition.
In a remarkable first campaign as a professional club, the Hammers have surpassed all expectations, defying the odds to set up a final shown with Manchester City at Wembley.
A seven-time winner of English football's most coveted cup trophy, Flaherty has been no stranger to the big occasion over the years, tasting success with both Arsenal and Chelsea during a glittering career.
Yet with game-time increasingly limited at 2018 winners Chelsea, the 27-year-old took the plunge to join newly-professional West Ham over the summer, quickly assuming the captain's armband at Rush Green.
“I think a few eyebrows were raised when I left Chelsea, but I just wanted to play. I sat on the bench in the final last year and knew I had to go,” said Flaherty. “We'd won but I didn't feel like I was a part of it.
“Going through what I did has helped me become the player that I am now. Sitting on the bench is one of the hardest things, it was just an awful feeling.
“I didn't even need to meet anyone or see the facilities, I just sat down with 'Beardy' (Matt Beard) to hear his vision. There was no doubt in my mind that I could push on here.
“It's the most together of any of the teams I've played for. It's the most adversity I've faced, the whole transition of being a new team chucked together.
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“We've done so much and gone through so much that most people don't even know about. It's been a fantastic journey and I couldn't be prouder to lead them.
“I know this can be the future for West Ham, and just the start of what we want to build.”
Despite a topsy-turvy first season in the FA Women's Super League, West Ham have reserved their best form for the cup, beating Reading on penalties in a dramatic semi-final at Adams Park.
And Flaherty believes the manner of the win has added to the growing belief that a fairytale ending could well be written in the stars.
“Getting here with West Ham has to be the pinnacle. I've been blessed to be part of two teams that got to so many finals, but for me to be able to experience it again is so special,” she added.
“Given it's our first year, staying in the league was our focus. Then it came to January time and we said 'listen, we could actually have a good cup run here'.
“As draws were happening, I just remember getting really excited. It felt like it was destined to happen for us.
“It's like a fairytale getting there in our first year as a professional club.”
*As the energy behind women's football, SSE's ambition is to support girls of all ages in England, helping them join in football from grassroots to the elite level. For more information on SSE's sponsorships and activities visit sse.co.uk.