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fighting words Limerick star Seán Finn on similarities with Dublin's allconquering footballers

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Limerick's Seán Finn at the launch of the Local Enterprise Offices’ Student Enterprise Programme for 2021/’22. Photo: Cathal Noonan

Limerick's Seán Finn at the launch of the Local Enterprise Offices’ Student Enterprise Programme for 2021/’22. Photo: Cathal Noonan

Limerick's Seán Finn at the launch of the Local Enterprise Offices’ Student Enterprise Programme for 2021/’22. Photo: Cathal Noonan

Seán Finn doesn’t shy away from the comparison when asked if he can identify similarities between the (once) all-conquering, process-driven Dublin footballers and the (now) all-conquering, process-driven Limerick hurlers.

Certain aspects of it are definitely comparable,” says the Limerick back, “when you look at, I suppose, the system that we try to implement, the standards we set for ourselves.

“They have a greater level of success over the last six-seven years. We may hopefully go on to achieve that.

“But yeah, [with] highly-successful teams, there’s characteristics that are very intertwined and very comparable. I think the main one really there is the process element of it, and just focussing on ourselves and getting the performance that we expect.

“You can look at the Dublin footballers, I think that’s really what sets them apart … if they perform to the level that they know they can perform at, then there’s not many teams out there that can beat them.”

Over the past two seasons, a long queue of Liam MacCarthy pretenders has discovered this very painful reality equally applies to Limerick.

They have played nine championship matches and won the lot, by a cumulative 77 points – over 8.5 points per game. If anything, the gulf between Limerick and the rest has actually widened, epitomised by their 16-point final rout of Cork in August.

To extend the code-hopping analogy, Limerick today are where Jim Gavin’s Dublin were at the end of 2016: a team that had won an All-Ireland, then lost the following year’s semi-final (a tad carelessly) only to rebound with back-to-back victories.

If anything, Limerick appear even more dominant now than Dublin back then. The key question is whether they can mirror the sheer relentless of Dublin (pre-2021) or will they succumb to boredom, fatigue or a blurring of focus?

Speaking at yesterday’s launch of the Local Enterprise Offices’ Student Enterprise Programme for 2021/’22, Finn sounded well up for the challenge of what comes next. The three-time All-Star and Hurler of the Year nominee accepts the “target on your back” will probably be amplified with Limerick going for three-in-a-row, but that won’t alter their approach.

“We believe, if we do perform in every game, we will come out on the right side of every result,” he says.

“Look, it is a process-driven machine. We try to maybe eliminate the emotional side of things, which can be quite inconsistent.”

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If that sounds familiar, it’s probably because this is the lexicon of winners, the dictionary of Dubs in their pomp: focus, perform, stick to the process, and the result should look after itself.

For all that, there was no hint of what awaited when John Kiely took over. Having recovered from a torn ACL in 2016, Finn’s first two SHC appearances, against Clare and Kilkenny in 2017, both ended in defeat.

“Honestly, we could never have envisioned in 2017 the success we have now,” the 25-year-old reflects. “But as you won more games that, years before, you mightn’t have come out the right side of, you begin to build confidence and trust in what the management are doing.

“In 2016 or 2017 could we have imagined three All-Irelands? I don’t think so. But we are where we are now, and it’s important that we try and make the most of it.

“There was a good underage set-up in Limerick … but a lot of good underage teams have not become successful at senior level. So obviously there was a concern that mightn’t transfer to senior level – you look at the teams in the early 2000s with Limerick. So it was important, when we did go into the senior set-up, that we were involved with a good backroom team and were given the resources to give us the best opportunity to succeed.”

Looking forward to 2022, the Bruff man talks of performance goals at the start of every year. He won’t create hostages to fortune by spelling out what they might be, other than joking that he “might get a point or two”.

Stopping points – and goals – is his forte. Shane Kingston’s early goal for Cork in the All-Ireland final is probably one of those nit-picking areas for improvement that he’ll target.

“I probably shot the gun a bit too soon and should have let him take his steps a bit more,” he says in hindsight.

Asked to identify the most improved part of his game, he suggests “decision-making”. Asked what he did well to warrant his Hurler of the Year nomination (alongside favourite Cian Lynch and Kyle Hayes) he hesitates in a way you’ll never see on the pitch.

“I don’t know!” he repeats, before adding: “Maybe the consistency element is an important thing. Do I consider myself at that level? I don’t, to be fair. I think I have a lot more to do to put myself in the bracket of winning that title.”

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