Legend On The Line
Al Finucane talked to Tom Flynn
(first published in the March 2010 Derry City programme)
You’ve often heard the phrase in football ‘a true Blue’. That certainly is the manner to describe Al Finucane, captain of our Cup winning side of 1980. Al not only wore the blue of Waterford, but of his native city Limerick as well.
It was while in his 12th season with Limerick that he felt his career was getting a little stale, and the then-chairman of Waterford Joe Delaney got wind of this, and within a week Al was linking up with the chairman in South Tipperary. He did not mind the travel, and he would leave Limerick at 8am and meet up with his team mates at 12:30 at Dooley’s. Training was not too bad either as he was able to train at Market’s Field with Limerick.
In Waterford there were some lovely people, he recalls, from the board, the chairman, Noel Wallace, and John (Nish) Barnes who came to the rescue of injured players and administered first aid. The Cup team was superb, and Al’s memory of the local players who stood out were Mick Madigan and the ever-present Tony Dunphy, a very brave young player who would always give you no less than 100%. Al also recalls the time the great Sir Bobby Charlton lined out for Waterford, that was a great honour to call him a team mate, even for a short time.
As regards the League venues, the Showgrounds in Sligo was not a great pitch to play on, and the travelling would kill you! On the other hand, Glenmalure Park (Milltown) of Shamrock Rovers was a dream, as was the HQ of football at the time, Dalymount Park, home of Bohemians. His most difficult opponent would have been Mick Leech of Rovers, and of course Alfie Hale, who was also his manager of the 1980 Cup winning side, the winning of which he still counts as the highlight of his career at Waterford.
A former manager at Limerick, Ewan Fenton, was a great influence on Al’s career at club level, as was John Giles at international level. Al relates that Giles gave great direction on the field, players knew what they had to do, but they also had the freedom to play. He made 13 appearances for the Republic of Ireland, and the one that stands out in his mind is the away game against Turkey.
England won the World Cup in 1966, of course, and the following year the League of Ireland entertained an English League selection at Lansdowne Road. It ended in a one-all draw, England’s goalscorer was the late Ronnie Radford of Arsenal, and Ireland’s goal came from a penalty that sent Gordon Banks the wrong way, the scorer none other than Johnny Matthews of Waterford. Al had the honour of captaining the side that day, and in the end he made 26 appearances for the Inter-League Irish team.
Al also has the honour of being the oldest player to play in Europe at 44, against Bordeaux in 1986. I was lucky enough to be present on what was a wonderful trip to Bordeaux for all of us, management, players and supporters, and I felt it was just tiredness that beat us in the end. After the match we attended a banquet where Al was presented with a huge bottle of champagne, which he believed was for Man of the Match. Not so, he got it because of his youthful age of 44 and still going strong! When Al did announce his retirement from the game, a team mate from his days at Limerick, goalkeeper Kevin Fitzpatrick, encouraged Al to stay on a while longer to help out Newcastle West.
When he finally hung up his boots, Al worked first for a brewery, and then in sales for an oil company. He is married, with four sons, two of which play at junior level in Limerick. What of the future? Al may yet make more appearances for Limerick in an administrator / ambassador role, a job which, like all through his career, would be tackled in a first class manner.