Sean Finn enjoying Limerick's success story
By Cian O’Connell
Sean Finn smiles when trying to make sense of it all about how Limerick flourished throughout a memorable campaign.
So many small little stories combined in an epic adventure culminating in an All Ireland triumph over Galway. That vital sporting ingredient momentum was generated by Limerick especially following the Allianz Hurling League win over Galway at Pearse Stadium which secured promotion to Division 1A for 2019.
“From the beginning of the year there has been a different buzz or there was something in the group that you recognise when it is there,” Finn commented at the launch of the 2018 Fenway Hurling Classic.
“When it wasn't there it stands out that it wasn't there. The turning point in the year was perhaps the League game in Salthill against Galway, that was a turning point.
“It probably all took off from there. I suppose winning brings a sort of momentum, a sort of buzz to a group and it is hard to break that momentum in a competition like the new structure was this year.”
The subsequent knockout spring encounters against Clare and Tipperary mattered deeply to the development of this Limerick team according to Finn.
“We had three competitive games and we performed well in all of the games,” Finn reflects. “When we lost to Tipp that time in extra-time we were disappointed, but we did perform well so there was still something to build on.
“That was brought into the first round of the Championship, the way the games came think and fast momentum is a huge thing with that new structure. It is very hard to break that momentum because it is so important to get it and a winning mentality. That added to the whole group this year.”
Finn had endured his own difficulties missing out on the 2016 campaign due to a cruciate ligament injury, but the Bruff clubman tried to remain focused which was crucial.
“Of course it was, I never really got a good shot at Limerick that year,” Finn responds. “It was always my dream to play with Limerick, that was the end goal. So obviously you have a lot of people doing it these days and there is tough days you go down, but winning a trophy and playing with Limerick makes it all worthwhile.”
Throughout the past decade encouraging signs have been available for Limerick with Finn acknowledging that the triumphs at underage, second and third level suggested that the Treatymen would eventually deliver on the grand stage. “Perhaps because at underage level we were always expected to win big games,” Finn states.
“There had been tight games at underage and we often came out on top, maybe the All Ireland (Minor) Final was an outlier in 2014. Myself, Cian Lynch, Ronan Lynch, Tom Morrissey, Barry Nash, we all grew up together.
“We had been successful at underage and that mentality maybe added to the group this year added to the experience of the likes of Graeme (Mulcahy), it all helped. There was a nice blend throughout the year for sure.”
Suddenly with Limerick perched on the summit of the hurling world different challenges exist for John Kiely’s outfit. “Even now at the moment the next couple of weeks will fly by and the League will come around very fast,” Finn remarks.
“I suppose the challenges are to maybe take a step back from a lot of the things that are coming our way as champions at the moment. To manage that over the next couple of months is maybe a challenge, but we are looking forward to getting back training.
“We've had a few weeks off, we might get a few more, but we look forward to getting back training and into it again. It will come back very quick. The League will start in February and before you know it will be June again and hopefully we will be back here again at Croke Park.”
Kiely’s influence on the Limerick panel carried real significance for Finn. “John is a super guy, he keeps us all very level headed,” Finn admits. “He will always pick out if you are acting out of place, he will let you know about it and will make sure that you are humble and grounded. That is what he is about.
“He expects hard work, he expects a commitment and honesty and those couple of traits were paramount in this year's Championship with us. I think John laid those foundations throughout the year and we stuck by it.”
The depth of the Limerick panel was a factor throughout 2018 with Finn highlighting an injury suffered against Clare in the last Munster Championship group match as being a demanding spell both physically and mentally.
“For sure, I got injured against Clare that time, I was so, so anxious to get back because I was never, ever sure of my place,” is Finn's assessment. "I played a few minutes against Carlow and I was never sure that I would play the next day. You had 36 lads in the panel and when we were playing those A versus B games in training every one of those guys thinks and believes that they can get on a matchday panel.
“That shows the strength of the panel. All the players do think that they have a right to be on that panel or that team and that brings the best out of myself and everyone on the team because you are fighting every single day to get a chance on the day or the panel.”
With the experienced Richie McCarthy and Seamus Hickey among those waiting Finn accepts that Limerick’s considerable options ensured high quality displays. “It brings consistency,” Finn adds about the competitiveness. “I got injured against Clare and I could not wait to get back because I was in fear that I would miss out on a place the following day.
“That does bring the best out of you as you are never too sure or too comfortable. You are always working as hard as you can to get the best out of yourself to try to make sure you will be playing.
“That pressure and that uncomfortable position you get put in because lads are fighting for positions is what brought the most out of all the players in the team this year, especially in the backs.” Finn was most certainly a standout performer during Limerick’s thrilling triumph.