Rob Finnerty and Galway primed for a big few weeks

Son of celebrated former Mayo forward braced for an all-Connacht national final against their great rivals

Rob Finnerty displays the patience of any good corner forward when it comes to league final opponents, Mayo.

An obvious line of conversation is his connections with the county: father Anthony wore the same number 13 jersey in two All-Ireland finals – three including the 1996 replay – before settling in Galway.

You sense that maybe he’s a bit tired of all the family background stuff especially when the counties meet in a big match – and Sunday is the fifth he’s been involved in including two Connacht finals, a quarter-final and an All-Ireland qualifier – but it remains a source of curiosity.

Does it mean more than other matches?


“No, I wouldn’t say so. You have that bit of craic with the cousins or whatever – some of them would still be supporting Mayo when we play against them but they all put on the Galway jersey then when we are playing other counties.”

A conspicuously talented minor, he played in the 2016 All-Ireland final when Galway came up short – inevitably – against David Clifford’s Kerry.

He’s actually been a senior for the past four years, having come on as a replacement in a couple of 2019 championship matches before he’d even played league.

There’s another reason why mention of Mayo might provoke mixed feelings. In the very first match of this season’s league, he had to leave injured after 25 minutes, having damaged ankle ligaments after being tackled in the act of scoring.

“That’s my second one;” he says, “both were actually against Mayo. I did my ankle in the [2021] Connacht final against Mayo, and then again in the first round of the league against Mayo. Both similar enough incidents. There wasn’t any malice in them now or anything like that.

“They were going for the ball or whatever, but it was disappointing. They were short days for me. I think I was gone after 10-15 minutes in the Connacht final the first time, and then about 20 minutes in the first round of the league.

“Hopefully I’ll be back there this weekend for longer than 20 minutes!”

He healed quite quickly but the injury was enough to derail his final tilt at Sigerson, with DCU, and he ruefully confirms that his college football days are done. Further problems arose on his return: twisting his knee and enduring a back spasm, which have necessitated careful management.

Galway though are building on last year’s eye-catching run to the All-Ireland final.

After a couple of disappointing championships, Pádraic Joyce steered the team all the way to the final day when they were level pegging with Kerry in the 65th minute before coming second in the run for the tape.

This season’s league began in Castlebar with an entertaining draw between the sides. Finnerty’s injury, another picked up by Damien Comer and Shane Walsh getting some down time after a club season with Kilmacud in Dublin meant the county’s entire All-Ireland full-forward line was not available.

Small wonder that the team hasn’t been posting outsized scores, as he points out when challenged on the underwhelming average of 0-13 per match.

“I don’t think it is a concern at all, to be honest. We have been defending well as well as the other things. We have probably been the best, or the second best defensive team in the top two divisions and I think weather has a part to play in that as well.

“We have had a lot of injuries as well, missing Damien, Shane – I was out for a good while and that probably added to it but now with the weather drying out, we would be confident that we can put up a big score.”

Connacht football is embarking on an extraordinarily intense few weeks. Sunday will see the second most important competition decided between two of the province’s leading teams.

Behind them in third place in Division One sit Roscommon, who in a week’s time will play Mayo in the opening round of the provincial championship.

A fortnight on and the winners of that will face Galway in a semi-final. He believes the encroachment of league into championship has already generated that competitiveness and cites last Sunday’s defeat of All-Ireland champions Kerry.

“Ah yeah like, it is but every game you play in Division One, it’s massive intensity. There was almost a championship feeling to that Kerry game last weekend. It didn’t feel like a national league game. I thought it was played at a serious intensity and I’d say it’ll be no different this weekend.”

Finnerty is reticent about reading ‘The West’s Awake’ into the vagaries of scoring difference in a cut-throat Division One: " . . . there was not a whole lot in the league this year. I suppose if you lost one game that you won by a point, you could be down in fifth or sixth place, I don’t know if there is a whole pile in it but, yeah, it looks good for Connacht football”.

Galway were said to lack impact off the bench last year. Whereas he doesn’t necessarily agree with that judgement, he accepts that Joyce has trawled in some promising additional resources during the past couple of months.

“Absolutely. We had a lot of injuries throughout the league so other lads got a good chance to step up, which they mightn’t have got if everyone was fit. They’ve all done really well. There’s huge competition for places.

“That’s really good and will only push us on to be better in training and take the chances when you get it. The squad has definitely deepened over the national league.”

· Rob Finnerty was speaking at the Optimum Nutrition and GPA media launch.

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times