Finn eager to be part of Rovers' vision of the future
'I don't think Kenny was expecting it,' says Hoops' new captain, who returns to Tallaght after successful two-year spell with Dundalk
Ronan Finn turns 29 today and, as he puts it himself, "everyone in their life comes to a crossroads and I suppose you weigh everything up."
That crossroads has now arrived for Finn and despite the fact that he has chosen to leave a Dundalk side that will go down as one of the greatest League of Ireland teams, he remains convinced that the right move for him at this point in his life is a return to Shamrock Rovers.
According to Rovers manager Stephen Bradley, the Tallaght club "were blown out of the water by Dundalk" in terms of the offer that the Lilywhites had on the table for Finn.
But the midfielder has instead decided to return to the club where he won the league and reached the Europa League group stages in 2011.
There were, however, a couple of key factors in Finn's decision to turn his back on the current champions for a side that are in the rebuilding phase.
As the years tick by, Finn has become more and more mindful of life after football and how he wants to have a career path lined up.
Rovers' offer of a three-year contract provides plenty of stability for the foreseeable future, while he will also take up a part-time job that he hopes will set him up for when he eventually retires.
However, Finn was eager to make it clear that he was returning to the Hoops to close the gap on Dundalk and to win trophies.
"It (new part-time job) will be bit by bit. Without getting into too much detail, I'm doing bits that will never, ever affect my gym work, extra training," Rovers' new club captain stressed.
"I will be doing bits that will put me in a position when I retire that I'm not going to be a retired footballer who has no work-experience or nothing in the background. I have a degree and I'm that age (when I need to consider my future).
"But without getting too involved in those things, the reason I'm back is to win trophies with Shamrock Rovers."
The news has come as a major blow to Stephen Kenny. Finn has been central to Dundalk's success over the last couple of seasons and was outstanding in their European campaign this year.
Kenny already has to deal with the loss of Andy Boyle and Daryl Horgan - who have both signed for Preston North End - but Finn's departure has come out of the blue.
"I have had an unbelievable relationship with Stephen Kenny since I met the man seven or eight years ago when I knew him as an opposition manager," Finn said.
"He always struck me as a very nice man and when he came into the job at Shamrock Rovers I built up a very good relationship with him.
"When he was not the manager at Rovers any more I was devastated, to be honest. When he left the club, I would have maintained a small relationship with him.
"Obviously he was a massive part of me going to Dundalk and over the last few years he has been brilliant for me.
"I told him and I don't think that he was really expecting it, to be honest. It was something in which I had to be very respectful in how I did it.
"The offer here is a very good one and I have a three-year deal, which allows me to plan for the future and gives me the platform to push on into the latter stage of my career."
Bradley was understandably delighted to welcome Finn back to Rovers. His signing is a major statement of their intent and at the same time has also dented Dundalk's hopes of winning their fourth title in-a-row.
It appears that the wage structures of several clubs in the league have increased but Bradley rubbished the suggestion that Rovers have broken the bank to lure Finn back to Tallaght.
"Regarding this Ronan deal, it's nonsense what people are talking about," he insisted.
"I read in one paper today that it was €120,000-a-year plus this and that, that's ridiculous. We have a wage structure, we meet every week with the board, make sure we are on point, with the same wage structure that every other manager has had. That's fact.
"If people looked at our squad they'd see how we do it, it's not rocket science. We have a lot of young players in key positions and that's allowing us to do this. That's it.
"We couldn't match Dundalk's offer but Ronan bought into the project, that was the whole thing. When I heard what he was offered, financially, at Dundalk I thought it was over but we get the phone call from Ronan saying he wanted to come.
"People won't believe that but it's true, you look around our squad and you can see how we can make these signings, with the young players we have in key positions, financially we are under budget."
Discussions between Finn and Rovers have been ongoing behind the scenes for a while but he doesn't believe that Dundalk could have done anything more to keep him at the club.
"When I met Stephen McPhail things just developed and he was able to show me the platform for this club, the academy is massive, the whole pathway to the first team," Finn added.
"They're really building a club from the ground up whereas, with a lot of League of Ireland clubs, it's first team and nothing, schoolboy factors don't seem to come into contention. I took my time in making the decision and I feel I've made the right one."
Time will tell whether he has or not.
Dundalk's exit wounds
Daryl Horgan (Winger) Dundalk's key player has attracted interest from across the pond for a while now, and it was inevitable that Stephen Kenny would eventually lose him.
Horgan, who scored 10 goals last season, joins a Preston side hoping to make a push for promotion from the Championship.
Patrick McEleney will be expected to fill Horgan's boots at Dundalk.
Andy Boyle (Centre-half) A calming presence in the Lilywhites' back four, Boyle, like Horgan, has signed a two-and-a-half-year contract with Preston.
Boyle rarely put a foot wrong for Dundalk and proved to be an able deputy when he captained his side when Stephen O'Donnell was unavailable.
Sean Hoare, who arrives from St Pat's, will have big boots to fill.
Ronan Finn (Midfield) The biggest surprise exit out of the trio as Finn turned his back on the champions in favour of a three-year deal with Shamrock Rovers and the offer of a part-time job.
Finn has been one of Dundalk's most consistent performers over the last couple of seasons and his decision to leave came as a shock.
Robbie Benson would appear to be the most ready-made replacement within the squad but Kenny may also look abroad for options.