Pete Finnerty still vexed at 1989 semi-final ref John Denton

Galway great Pete Finnerty has again expressed his dismay with 1989 All-Ireland semi-final referee John Denton.

In his Laochra Gael programme on TG4 next Wednesday, the Mullagh man slams the Wexford official for sending off Sylvie Linnane in the first half and Michael McGrath in the second in their defeat to Tipperary. Linnane was red-carded for a foul on Nicky English as a Paul Delaney free sailed over.

Reacting to the decision, Finnerty is seen throwing his hurley away in disgust while McGrath was dismissed for jumping into Tipp defender Conor O’Donovan.

“Tipp were more focused in that game,” Finnerty recalled. “The first half, they outhurled us, they outclassed us. They deserved to lead at half-time.”

But he added: “There were a few crazy decisions. Sylvie tussling for the ball and the next thing Nicky falls to the ground. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I think Nicky was looking for a free, he wasn’t looking to get Sylvie sent off. Sylvie got his marching orders but did not deserve to be sent off.”

Finnerty was later struck by a chasing John Leahy but Leahy escaped punishment. “If Mike McGrath’s was a sending-off offence, or Sylvie’s was a sending-off offence, so was John’s,” remarked Finnerty.

“We left that pitch infuriated. Afterwards, it wasn’t disappointment that heads were down and tears were in your eyes, it was pure frustration. It was the following day and we were having a pint in Larry’s (Murray, father of Nigel) pub in Loughrea and somebody said, they are going to have a handy final now against Antrim.

"I said, ‘What? Antrim beat Offaly?’ I never knew. That’s how focused I was on the game beforehand and how infuriated I was afterwards.”

Some of five-time All Star Finnerty’s greatest performances came against Tipperary, although emigration had been on his mind prior to the 1987 All-Ireland semi-final when they beat their neighbours to reach a third consecutive final having lost the previous two.

“I had no intention of coming back but then sure Farrell rang me and I said, ‘we’ll come back for the semi-final.’”

Galway broke their final duck in a hard-hitting clash with Kilkenny.

“The thoughts of going back to America and having lost again, and all this in vain. You just couldn’t contemplate it. We knew Kilkenny were going to come with a physical challenge. The physicality in the first half was savage. You do whatever it takes to win an All-Ireland and we weren’t going to win an All-Ireland unless we were able to stand up to that kind of physicality.”

Finnerty recounts Linnane’s reaction to RTÉ’s request for Galway to wait a minute in the dressing room so that they could film the players coming out of the tunnel for the second half.

“Sylvie let fly and the poor official, he (Linnane) warped his knuckles. He (Linnane) said, ‘We’re not waiting for any f-ing RTÉ, we’re coming out now’ and that was it. Nothing would stop us.”

Cork twice inflicted final heartache on Finnerty in 1986 and ’90. Galway’s failure to master their three-man midfield tactic against Cork made a hero of corner-back Johnny Crowley in ’86.

“Second time coming into the losing dressing room without the cup was one of the most gut-wrenching feelings I ever had. I said, ‘am I going to continue doing this again, lost two All-Ireland seniors, two All-Ireland minors’.”

  • Laochra Gael – Pete Finnerty will be shown next Wednesday, March 29, on TG4 at 9.30pm.


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