Last week, we sat down with Limerick's Seán Finn for a chat about all things Limerick senior hurling.
In the first part of the interview, Finn opened up about Limerick's legacy in modern-day hurling, the drive-for-five to come, and many other things around the Treaty's quest for legendary status in the game.
In the second part of the interview with The Irish Post, Finn opened up further about Limerick's John Kiely's impact on the group, his unfinished business with Limerick after an ACL injury, his favourite All-Ireland win, and what it's like marking the best forwards in the country.
A new member of the four-in-a-row club.
Cork: 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943
Kilkenny: 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009
Limerick: 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 pic.twitter.com/VPFoorTOiP
— OurGame.ie (@OurGameHQ) July 23, 2023
Here's how it went:
Limerick's John Kiely is a name not unknown to many in hurling circles. The Galbally native has climbed the ladder in Limerick hurling to cement his status as one of the greatest hurling coaches of all time.
Starting as Limerick's intermediate manager in 2009 to winning four All-Ireland senior hurling titles in a row with his native country is no mean feat. His legacy in hurling already cannot be questioned.
Finn was asked what makes the Galbally man stand out from the rest of the other hurling managers in Ireland. The Limerick man admitted that it was merely the ability to put trust in some of the best in the sport, while also doing an exemplary job himself.
"Yeah, John is a maverick in a way. You can kind of see his reaction after the All-Ireland final. I haven't seen a manager react like that in front of the Hogan Stand ever before, and the public love that—the expression of emotion—and they can relate to it. There are no hiding places with him. He's very genuine, very honest, and you see what you see," said Finn.
"I think people trust that; they can relate to it. It's very genuine. He's very good at answering and dealing with the hard questions, the difficult choices he has to make. The players respect the honesty of it.
"I also think it's the ability to surround himself with good people as well. The trust thing can be built up over a number of years, but it's not just down to John, and he'd say the same thing. It's about the collective group, and he'd say the same thing.
"John is excellent at what he does, but there are coaches and selectors who are the best in the business. Everyone around them is the best at what they do, so it's a team effort. Again, though he is great at his job, it's not different from any other lad coming into the role."
Last year, Finn suffered a cruciate ligament injury in their Munster Championship defeat to Clare. The injury was a hammer blow to Limerick, but they did manage to pull through and create more history in the sport by beating Kilkenny in July of this year.
It can be a daunting task being injured while the rest of the group flourishes without you. Fears of never getting back to your best will come and go, but thanks to Limerick's team spirit Finn was able to rest easy that he wouldn't become a side piece in Limerick's glory.
The Bruff man now states he has added motivation to get back on the field and celebrate as one of the players rather than as a spectator on the sidelines.
"For sure, I am very lucky that the group that we have; even when you're injured, you still get brought along, and you feel that you're adding value to the sideline, the dressing room, the halftime moments in the game. Even the energy when you are having a few beers, rather than feeling sorry for yourself," claimed Finn.
"Players that have been injured in the past, you do get a sense of contributing even though you are not on the pitch, and that's a really special thing to have in a group because it's not easy to accept that someone is injured and look after them.
"I was really delighted in how I was able to contribute this year, albeit not on the pitch, which was unfortunate.
"Do I have unfinished business? I do, I do. Personally, I feel like I am hitting my peak at 27, 28, 29. From an individual basis, I have picked up a couple of awards, which is always fantastic, but just not being on the pitch at the end of the All-Ireland final last year was kind of a moment where myself and Declan Hannon were standing beside each other and we had a quick word and said, "We will be with each other next year on the pitch,"and it's a goal to go after.
"It's great to win an All-Ireland, but when you're on a pitch and you're playing the game, it's a different feeling. There's more I'd like to go after individually, and like that, if I push myself, it can only be the best for the group as well."
Finn also believes that he will be back when the real hurling gets going again. His recovery is going as planned.
"I have been out for about three and a half months now, so the target is really February. That's about nine months. It feels good at the moment; progress is going really well. As hurling begins to wind down this time of year, the club only has a couple of weeks left. At least I have a target in sight. The next time Limerick trains collectively as a group, I'll be training with them, which is a nice touch as well. Knowing that when they go back, I'll be ready to go back as well.
"It's a long road mentally and physically, but I am through the worst of it."
Limerick's four All-Ireland wins have all been special. From the first win over Galway, to their thumping of Cork in 2021, and their double over Kilkenny in 2022 and 2023, they all come with their own special memories.
For Finn though, the 3-32 to 1-22 win over Cork in 2021 in an empty Croke Park during Covid times was the most special because of how comprehensive it was, plus because of the year he shared with friends on and off the pitch that same year.
"I always reflect on the Cork one in 2021. Half capacity in Croke Park, but the noise was unreal. Obviously, close rivals to Cork, because of the distance, and I think the performance we gave that day was one we could be proud of.
"It was arguably one of the best performances ever in an All-Ireland final and up there with the second half of this year's against Kilkenny.
"It was just the whole year that built up to that occasion. Myself, Gearóid Hegarty, and David Reidy were living together with the three girlfriends in Castletroy. There were even six lads in a house down the road from us. We lived together, but we also trained together. Through the summer, we were going for coffee every day, there were 8 or 10 of us, and then we would go training and come back, etc.
"It all lined up to the finale, which was the All-Ireland final. This included the week after, spent drinking and going home together.
"A few of us moved out the week after the All-Ireland final, which was just the pinnacle of the whole year. It was definitely my favourite, and obviously, it was great to get a performance like we did in the final as well. It was more than just the final itself; it was the whole campaign that we experienced, which made it so special."
Former Manchester United captain Roy Keane used to say the hardest games they would play would be in training and not in the actual matches they would play the weekend to come.
Finn echoes a similar sentiment to his countryman and states that marking the players in the Limerick team is both a curse and a blessing for players like himself. He believes that having this challenge only makes him a better player in the short and long-term.
"I have always said that the lads we have in training are tough. I am lucky and unlucky having to mark them three nights a week during January to April and all year round. It's bad in a sense that they are so hard to mark, but it's good in the way that it makes me a better player. I would like to think that them having to mark me makes them better players also.
"Peter Casey, Aaron Gillane, and Séamus Flanagan, the three of those are so hard to mark. Especially in Croke Park, where they would be running into 50 yards of space. It's daunting seeing that as a defender, especially with the ball that's going into them and their ability to retain possession.
"I suppose you'd have to say Aaron Gillane with the form that he's in. I'd say those three lads, and I'm never going to say someone outside of Limerick," said Finn with a beaming smile.
If you missed the first part of the interview with Sean Finn, you can read it here.
I spoke to @LimerickCLG 's @SeanFinn390 about the county's huge success in senior hurling for @theirishpost
We spoke about the:
🍀Limerick's ability to overcome challenges
💚What makes the team so special
📗If teams could close the gap https://t.co/E6JT6C9pJu
— ConorDunny (@conordunny) October 19, 2023