Fitzmaurice and Galvin leading from the front for Finuge
Published 09/02/2013 | 04:00
IT sounds like the classic GAA story.
Finuge is, according to club captain Chris Allen, "really only a crossroads, a pub and a football pitch," yet they return to an All-Ireland final for the second time in eight years. The first appearance came in 2005, when they won the All-Ireland junior title. Now they are in the intermediate decider.
Since then they have had a few near-misses in the Kerry IFC and then saw Ardfert, St Michael's Foilmore and Milltown-Castlemaine go on to All-Ireland glory.
"We were beaten in one quarter-final, two semi-finals and two finals before this and the majority of those losses were by a point," Allen said. "And two or three of the teams that beat us went on to win the All-Ireland, so we knew we weren't far off the mark."
Through their hurling wing of Lixnaw, many of their players have waged a war on two fronts – they were beaten in the Kerry SHC final just a fortnight before their IFC semi-final.
The steadying influence of Eamonn Fitzmaurice is key. The new Kerry manager has seen his side make a poor National League start, but as a player he has helped Finuge tick over smoothly.
He kicked the equaliser in the drawn Kerry final and Allen didn't want the chance to fall to anyone else.
"He is very level-headed, very relaxed and very composed under pressure, whether out in a game or on the sideline," he said. "Eamonn doesn't do anything by halves – he gives 100pc. He took a little bit of a break at the start of 2012 because he was in charge of the Kerry U-21s, but once he came back, he gave us 100pc every time. He goes in and does Kerry training, he comes out to the club and he is always there to stand up and be counted."
Paul Galvin is another marquee name at the club, and Allen believes he has set the bar for others.
"Everyone has something to say on Paul Galvin, whether it is football or fashion," he said.
"But Paul is dedicated, he is a phenomenal athlete and leader, on the pitch and off. But when he goes out on the field in a Finuge jersey there is only one thing on his mind, and that's to get the win and to help the team and the fellas he has grown up with."
Both Galvin and Fitzmaurice have played vital parts in the run to the final – which could be Fitzmaurice's last game of football.
This evening, they take on Tyrone side Cookstown, who won this competition two years ago by beating Spa of Kerry in the final – the same side which Finuge trumped in the Kerry decider.
"At the start of the year you are not even thinking about Croke Park," adds Allen. "It is just winning the first game and moving on. It's a huge honour to be here looking forward to Croke Park."