Last summer, Limerick's Senior Hurling team achieved what few hurling teams had done before: they clinched a fourth consecutive Liam McCarthy Cup in emphatic fashion yet again.
John Kiely's all-conquering Treaty side defeated Kilkenny 0-30 to 2-15 for the second year in a row. This victory elevated Limerick to a pedestal among hurling greats, alongside the likes of the legendary Kilkenny side under Brian Cody (2006-2009) and the formidable Cork side (1941 to 1944).
Limerick's hurlers have already solidified their legacy in hurling, especially in the modern era. If the 'drive for five' materialises, it will further establish their status as the best of all time.
One man who has been a part of every one of the four All-Ireland wins with Limerick is Bruff native Seán Finn. Finn has climbed his way up through the Limerick hurling system to become one of the county's best-ever corner-backs. Finn's performances in a Limerick jersey have not only contributed to the four All-Ireland titles but also earned him several personal accolades. He received four All-Star awards in 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021 and was included in The Sunday Game's Team of the Year in 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022. Finn's contributions to Limerick on the field have not gone unnoticed.
This year, the 27-year-old was unable to complete the season due to a season-ending ACL injury suffered in Limerick's surprising Munster Championship defeat to Clare in May.
In part one of the interview. Finn recently sat down with The Irish Post for a chat about all things Limerick.
The Limerick star was firstly asked about how it felt to be part of a special group and if he had time to stand back and take it all in.
"I suppose we never expected to be where we are," said Finn. "We knew we had a special group growing up, given the expectations placed on us as a very young team. We sensed our potential early on in our minor years, but as we transitioned to the senior level, success wasn't guaranteed.
"When we look back at that time, did we anticipate winning four All-Ireland titles? I don't think so. But here we are now, and it's a brilliant feeling to identify ourselves as part of such a successful group. I believe we won't truly appreciate our achievements until we step back and it becomes someone else's turn to carry the mantle.
"When you're in the midst of it, it's about dedicating yourself to the task at hand. Success comes from the hard work you put in and the occasional stroke of luck, but I think it will take a few years after we retire to fully comprehend and appreciate what we've accomplished. It's not just about the impact we've had on the game but also the influence we've had on the people who support us.
"I was recently talking to a friend of mine who mentioned how his family relationships have improved significantly over the past six years, all because of the success we've experienced. It's as simple as going to games, enjoying a few drinks, and bonding over shared victories.
"Regarding your question about 'what it's like to be part of this group', I don't think we can grasp the depth of it until our playing days are behind us. Right now, we're just doing what we love and what we're good at."
Limerick's dominance in hurling obviously hasn't gone unnoticed; how could it? Many people question if Limerick can even be caught by the chasing pack in the game. Odds for a fifth Liam McCarthy title in 2024 are short odds with many different bookmakers.
Finn played down the notion that the gap between Limerick and everyone else was as wide as it was made out to be. Limerick's struggles in the Munster championship were cited as a reason for this.
"I think the perception that we are well ahead of what's out there, I couldn't disagree more. It's very tight. You look at how the Munster Championship has been over the last few years. It's not like we are blowing teams out of the water in Munster. You can see how tight it was this year, and with a bit of luck, we got through, and luckily, we ended up in the Munster Final. Once you're in those games, you give yourselves a chance, and you need a bit of luck along the way," added Finn.
"In terms of a gap between ourselves and the rest, it's very minimal, and the standard is only going to get higher. Teams are pushing harder and harder. It's up to us to maintain the standard, but if you don't, you'll be caught, and you'll fail to achieve what you and others expect.
"I don't think there is much of a gap, to be honest."
There's a clear desire to be humble and play down expectations expressed by Finn already, but chatter for five-in-a-row will only grow stronger and stronger as the weeks and months pass on. Limerick can bat away questions around their motivation, but anyone with common sense will know that becoming the best hurling team of all time will become a main motivator for John Kiely's side, even if they don't say it out loud.
— BBC SPORT NI (@BBCSPORTNI) July 23, 2023
Finn admitted that it would be something that would be spoken about in the coming months.
"Yeah, look, it's certainly going to be something that's spoken about a lot over the next 12 months, and there's no hiding away from it. We have always accepted that there's pressure in what we are doing. There was pressure in the two-in-a-row, also in the three, and four-in-a-row. Every year the narrative is different. Obviously, the big one this year is the five-in-a-row, and that's never been done.
"We have never shied away from that reality. It's a real privilege to be in the position to maybe win five-in-a-row, and that's what it is. It's a carrot to go after. We should be excited about it and are excited about it, rather than being fearful like in previous years, where Limerick wouldn't even have dreamt of being in an All-Ireland final, never mind winning a potential five-in-a-row.
"You have to respect, acknowledge it, be excited by it, and that's what we will be doing over the next few months. We will also try to find the balance of being excited and recognising the pressure that comes with it, but not being consumed by it.
The best teams and people throughout the history of world sport have an innate skill to deal with the pressure of winning titles and being the best at their craft. For example, the likes of the New Zealand rugby team, the Kilkenny hurling team under Brian Cody, Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls, and many others have learned to bottle the pressure and use it to cement their status in sport.
Limerick's ability to keep going and going in hurling has become their unique selling point. Often when teams think they have their number, they find a third, fourth, fifth gear and overcome every challenge put toward them.
Finn explained how Limerick was able to overcome those obstacles by admitting that having trust in 'really good people' was the main difference between being losers and winners in the sport.
"I think it's finding a really good balance of really good people and having the trust in them and having the trust in what we are doing in training is good enough to get us to where we want to go.
"I also think it's the ability of the players to absorb the criticism because you hear the noise and what's going on in the media and online. You hear people saying 'Limerick aren't going as well as they might have been going on over the last couple of years'. It's very easy to let that in and let that affect you.
"Look, it's important to recognise that, but if you use it in the right way and channel it in a way that feels like people are writing us off, it can feel like a motivational tool to work harder and train harder.
"We don't tend to do that, though. We never had a chip on our shoulder over the last few years. It's very much about the group, and we have a target to hit. We have seen that when we hit our targets, we tend to get results. As the year goes on, you'd hope that your performance levels would improve.
"People don't see this, but we have seen the data and stats. We talk internally about it and get confidence from the data we get back. It has shown that when you're getting it right and you're on an upward curve, it will get you to your destination.
"We never channel it as a motivational tool, but the group over the last couple of years have done really well to keep the noise out while also knowing that the noise is there."