Finn ready for action after an unusual winter
By Kevin Egan
Sean Finn has seen the madness that comes with winning an All-Ireland title in front of a packed Croke Park, and the incredible whirlwind that follows as players and management share the success with a joyful and ecstatic county full of supporters for days and weeks afterwards.
He has also lived through a unique experience – getting his hands on the Liam MacCarthy cup, but then returning home to a county that was forced to keep their excitement and delirium under wraps, all in the cause of controlling a pandemic.
He appreciates the latter, but now, standing on the cusp of the 2021 season, it’s a case of the sooner normality resumes, the better, for the reigning All Star.
“The novelty has definitely worn off at this stage," he said at this week’s launch of the 2021 Allianz Hurling League.
“It’ll put a big smile on my face the next time I get to run out onto the Gaelic Grounds, Semple Stadium or Croke Park to see a full or even half capacity stadium.
“Players just had to roll with it, it was evening games, lights on, but now it’s summer and it’ll feel very strange to play a championship game in July with the ball hopping off the ground with no crowd.
“I don’t know when it’ll be, maybe 12 months, but it’ll be an incredible feeling to see 80,000 people in Croke Park again."
Because there was none of the usual celebrations, touring the county to bring the Liam MacCarthy Cup to primary schools and village squares, Finn and his Limerick colleagues found that 2020 became ancient history very quickly.
“Within three weeks of the final, we hardly ever spoke about it. You were only talking to your family, and they were sick of hearing about it at that stage. Normally you’d be pulled and dragged all over the place touring cups but there was none of that over the last two weeks, I was able to bring the cup down home just for a night with the family recently and that was a real highlight, to be able to enjoy it with them," he said.
Now all eyes are turned to the 2021 season, where his first priority will be to hold his place in a full back line where Richie English is once again available for selection after missing out on last year due to a cruciate injury, while several other key players will be fighting for spots in John Kiely’s rearguard division.
“It was a blow losing lads in advance of last year, but Dan (Morrissey) settled right in, he’s the type of player who’d just do anything you ask of him, then you have Barry (Nash) who’s a good player, very good distributor of the ball, and now you’ve six or seven lads who could play there. It’s great to see Richie back, Mike (Casey) is still a month or to away, but there’s very strong competition for places."
That competition starts this weekend, with Limerick set to play host to Tipperary on Saturday evening at the LIT Gaelic Grounds in what is sure to be one of the most eagerly awaited games of the first round.
“I took a complete break and didn’t pick up a hurley until April, and I think that’s stood to me," said Sean.
“It’s the nature of lads to do a bit, I did a fair bit of swimming in the sea myself, now I’m feeling fresh and looking forward to going back.
“As a group we’ve only a small bit done, a couple of games between ourselves. The first game is a really good test, but we’re going to focus on ourselves and not worry about Tipp. We’re all here to play hurling, this is the best time of the year to be playing, it’d be different if it was December of January. We can’t wait."
The long-awaited return of inter-county hurling takes place on Saturday, May 8th with the commencement of the Allianz Hurling Leagues. Over 70 games will take place across the four divisions in an action packed seven-week festival of hurling. This campaign also marks the 29th year of Allianz’ partnership with the GAA as sponsor of the Allianz Leagues, making it one of the longest-running sponsorships in Irish sport.