Jason O'Connor: Is Dermot Finnan the best junior soccer manager ever?

Jason O'Connor


Jason O'Connor



Jason O'Connor : Is Dermot Finnan the best junior soccer manager ever?

Finnan's army : Dermot Finnan pictured back left, with his Fairview Rangers 1999 FAI Cup winning side

ON the junior front in Limerick last week there was very little local football with Storm Brian killing off everything bar a sprinkling of FAI Junior Cup games.

With time to wonder (and I do hope that I am proved wrong) I feel it could be a few more years before we see national success at Junior level locally. I just think, for a variety of reasons, it will take more than the normal smidgen of luck required, for any of this years Limerick sides to win a FAI Cup and bring the most prestigious trophy in Junior football to the city.

For one local manager during the late 1990s and early 2000s he managed this feat no less than five times.

Very hard for the younger footballing generation to fathom I am sure but this week I spoke to Dermot Finnan, the most successful manager ever in the history of Junior Football in Limerick.

Dermot led the famous Fairview Rgs three in a row FAI Junior Cup side in 1997, 1998 and 1999 before reclaiming the trophy for his club in 2001 and retaining it again in 2002 for the final time.

A feat I am sure will not be repeated, well at least not in my life time, but it was a period that still makes Fairview Rgs a club with a footballing history that is unrivalled in the city and country.

Speaking to Dermot about his career in management the modest legend is as unassuming as ever. Very slow to take credit for success unparalleled not only in Limerick Junior Football history but even nationally puts the recent Sherriff YC achievements in a shadow.

“Before we ever won the FAI Junior Cup we were dominating locally, winning the Premier league almost every year” Dermot told me.

A feat he actually achieved every year between 1992 and 2000 with the exception of 1995, while Dermot led the club to the league title again in 2003.

That is success that can only be dreamed of in the current era and it also included a three in a row of Munster Junior cup successes in 1998, 1999 and 2000, having previously managed the club to provincial success in 1992.

“Being involved with Fairview Rgs from my early years I could sense around the club that the goal was always to win the FAI junior cup. The club had won it in 1965 and the hunger to win it again was obvious to me from the start. This became my individual goal aswell. I knew that to try and win the FAI Junior cup was a huge challenge because of the club I was managing and what was needed in the day to day dealing with players.”

“I was fortunate enough to have worked with great Fairview footballing people during my time managing the club, people who helped me a great deal. Sean Lipper Snr and Martin Cowhey had a great knowledge of the game and what was needed to be successful and they were always available to me,” Finnan added.

Dermot’s managerial career came full circle with his last stint in management in 2013 when he returned to the Fairgreen after spells with Park Rgs from Shannon, aswell as short periods with Peake Villa in the Tipperary league and also rivals Janesboro for a season.

It was his time directing football operations with Fairview that this footballing legend remembers most fondly.

“Watching the team play the way we spoke about and trained for, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and the fact that the trophies I won were with Fairview Rgs are the most pleasing things to me.”

“The one that sticks most in the memory is probably the 1997 cup final against Portmarnock. It was my first Junior Cup triumph and the scenes and celebrations afterwards were unbelievable.”

Dermot recalls: “We had been close in the years prior to that first success beaten in the quarter and semi finals a number of times, so to win the first one gave us the drive and belief to go on season after season hungry for more success. The players were fantastic. We had some real club men who were committed and behind everything we wanted to do,” added Finnan.

Dermot, who still helps out at committee level with the club these days and watches games when he can, is enjoying life on the golf course safe in the knowledge that he’s achievements will never be forgotten in Limerick Footballing circles.

Dermot Finnan's full list of Junior Trophies won makes for very impressive reading.

FAI Junior Cup – 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002

Munster Junior Cup – 1992, 1998, 1999, 2000

Lawson Cup - 1997 and 1999

Tuohy Cup – 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2003

Saxone Cup – 1993

Simmington Cup – 1994, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2003

Premier League – 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2003