Final pain can spur on Tribesmen

Padraig Walsh (Kilkenny) looks to step inside Kevin Moran (Waterford) during the Senior All-Ireland Hurling Semi-Final in Croke Park.  (Photo: Eoin Hennessy)
Galway half-back Pete Finnerty in action against Tipp.

Galway half-back Pete Finnerty in action against Tipp.

Remember him? Kilkenny and Tipperary had good reason to remember Pete Finnerty and his other half-back compadres Tony Keady and Gerry McInerney (he of the white boots and the flowing locks).

Finnerty had great days with Galway, but reckons there are lessons to be learned from the bad days too.

“We lost two All-Irelands in ’85, and ’86, and I had lost two All-Ireland minor finals as well,” he recalled. “I was dreadfully despondent afterwards, and I went to the US with Mac (Gerry McInerney).

“Phelim Murphy (Galway Co Board secretary) wrote to us to come back, but I was so disenchanted with losing the two finals I was of two minds whether I should.

“Now I was an illegal emigrant at the time, but nevertheless, that didn’t enter into our thought processes,” he said. “With Keady and Mac I said that I would go home and give it one more lash and I did.

“But, and here is the point I want to make - I had such a fear of not winning, or of losing another final. I feel that the Galway lads should have that on Sunday, in the sense that they have lost an All-Ireland final, and they were castigated from all quarters.

“Last year they had a six point lead against Tipperary. Tipp scored 2-10 in the next 18 minutes, and we scored a single point.

“I left Thurles totally disillusioned about the state of Galway hurling. Last Christmas, you wouldn’t get ten cents for Anthony Cunningham, but he has done a marvellous job, turned the whole thing around and there was a great sense of self-belief when they played Tipp in this year’s semi-final. That manifested itself when the goals went in. They never lost their shape, they never lost their structure; they stayed working.

“The fear that Kilkenny have beaten us so often, that we are not coming back the road as losers this time, is a good positive”, said Finnerty.

Finnerty spoke about composure, but surely this team have demonstrated that they are well versed in the rudiments of composure?

“Galway teams of yore didn’t have the composure when major scores were conceded,” he said. “A goal that is not answered fairly smartly is worth about five points, and it has a huge uplifting effect on the team and the supporters.

“Last time against Tipp our lads responded immediately, and even after the third goal, we strung four unanswered points together,” he said. “That is a rather new departure for Galway teams.”

Galway have unearthed some very big men to compete for dropping ball.

“Brian Cody has been well served by the big men that he brought on to the team over the years - players who can win primary possession in the air.

“I remember Martin Comerford, an animal of a man. Henry Shefflin was another masterful winner of a ball in the air; so too were players like Richie Power, and sure his younger brother John is no small man.

“We now have some big men to throw under the puckouts with a confidence that they can win aerial possession. We have Johnny Glynn at 6’ 4”, Jason Flynn (6’ 3”), Joe Canning (6’ 2”) and young Cathal Mannion (6’ 1”). When you have advantages like that you have to be able to use them.

“Kilkenny have been so good at it over the years,” he added. “But, we have to be able to match the aerial power of the Kilkenny lads and then capitalise on it.”

As for Sunday’s final goes, Finnerty sees the game as being a big test for the Cats.

“Kilkenny really have not been tested seriously yet,” he said. “The Leinster semi-final was a shambles as they walloped Wexford. We never tested Kilkenny in the Leinster final - they were only in second gear.

“Waterford put it up to Kilkenny for a while in the All-Ireland semi-final, but their defensive plan didn’t work, because Kilkenny pulled the foundations from under them,” he added. “I was delighted that Kilkenny won that one because it was a victory for the way hurling should be played. There was a fear that we would end up like a Donegal with 12 men behind the ball, and that would be a disaster.

“That Galway v Tipp game was badly needed, because hurling this year has been rather poor,” he added.

“Now for the final we have two managers who play the orthodox game. They might pull a forward back the field a bit, but that will only be a temporary situation.”

So who wins?

“Look my heart will always say Galway, but I feel that my head will rule my judgement on this occasion,” said Finnerty. “With the very highest respect for Kilkenny, I think that we have a great chance this time.

“I would love to see Galway win,” he added. “How could ye begrudge us - we haven’t tasted one for 27 years!”