League of Ireland Legends – Pat Finnerty
He is known as ‘Mr. Cabinteely’.
For almost four-decades, through many positions, including Director of Football, Pat Finnerty has epitomised all that is good about Cabinteely FC.
The club motto ‘Football for All, from Small to Tall’ has his imprint all over it.
Now in part retirement due to family circumstances, we sat down with the trailblazing goalkeeping coach who helped set the pathway within the club from the Cubs-Kittens to the current SSE Airtricity League First Division team.
In this first edition of ‘League of Ireland Legends’, we focus first on Pat’s legacy at Cabinteely before exploring his other football activities, sporting connections and family in part two.
Paul Dowling – How do you react to being called ‘Mr. Cabinteely’.
Pat Finnerty – That is what I was called. It is fine – I take it as a compliment. Volunteering is like a vocation. At the club, we are so lucky to have so many who volunteer and go beyond the call of duty. I would be enormously proud of that ethos.
PD – Of late, you have had to take a step back from club activities
PF – I married Pauline (Paula) O’Connor, my childhood sweetheart back in 1970. I have had to step back from all the afore mentioned to be full time carer for her after she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Paula was diagnosed first about 14 years ago but in recent years, her condition has become so that, she requires full time care.
PD – How did you become involved in Cabinteely?
PF – My son Padraigh, joined Cabinteely when he was 9, under Michael Murray. I was 1982. I went with them to help out, and I’ve being helping out since. I started coaching Padraigh’s team under John O’Sullivan. John’s son Mark played on the team also. When Padraigh was U16, he went to St. Joseph’s Boys with most of the team. Among the players in Cabinteely who left was Niall Cull who is now manager of the DLR Leisure facilities.
PD – What happened next
PF – I took a break then for about four years until Philip Lyons called to the door to ask me if I could help with his team. So, I was back in Cabinteely again. I stayed with that team for several years until it folded. I was asked by (then club secretary) Joe Ennis then to help Dave Harper who had the DDSL team in the club. This was probably among the best group of lads I had the pleasure of coaching and we remain friends to this day.
PD – How did get involved with the Cubs-Kittens section of Cabo.
PF – Dave and I were asked to help out with the School of Excellence on a Saturday morning which became known as the Cubs-Kittens. I stayed with that program for over 20 years until I retired. Dave left early on to “emigrate” to Wexford. Among the players in the Cubs then was our own Kevin Knight (first team record appearance holder) and later his brothers Jason, Conor, and Rhys plus all the girls and boys who gained the love of football and sport on Saturday mornings. The Cubs became the pathway for most of the players in Cabinteely. I then started up a program for players who could not get on a team after the Cubs on a Saturday. I succeeded in getting most of the players on to teams as the season went on. I did this for several years.
PD – The club is one of the few in Ireland fully involved with the FAI’s Football for All Club Programme and it works with both Special Olympics Ireland and Enable Ireland to ensure that we are open to the broadest possible audience. You have been pivotal in this.
PF – I started up the Special Needs football on Saturday mornings and later the Football for All for boys and girls with dyspraxia and autism, with the help of Dun Laoghaire Sports Partnership and the FAI. This group was one of the most satisfactory ventures I have ever done. But I must stress, a lot of people have been involved and have done tremendous work in this area. Their contribution must not be forgotten.
PD – You have also had a significant role in Women’s Football
PF – Around 2002, I started up Women’s football in Cabinteely, with the help of Hugh Calhoun and Michael Caulfield. Stephanie Roche was among the girls that joined us then. Other girls who were part of that early group were the Pinter sisters and Gillian went on to play for the famous Irish hockey team that qualified for the World Cup. I helped out at the start of the Ladies team which thankfully is still going strong to this day. Plenty of wonderful women have come through the club’s ranks. It is another area I am most proud of.
PD – As for the club’s fantastic Mini World Cup, you played a major behind the scenes role.
PF – The Mini World Cup is instrumental is recruiting players to the club. I was not involved in the early days. It is the start of their pathway for some. My role was in the background. On the planning side of things like organising the car park. I would be involved in the draft management plan for the DLR and An Garda Síochána. I would liaise with them. It is a wonderful event that evokes so many memories for so many people. Community has been key to its success.
PD – The pitches at Kilbogget Park is yet another project you were heavily involved in.
PF – We worked closely with the council (DLR) on improving Kilbogget Park. It is such a vital area for the community with so many aspects to it. The council deserve a lot of credit for their work. So much work has gone into the facilities. That is testament to the people involved in the club.
PD – In another string to your bow, you were involved in the setting the foundations for the club in the League of Ireland back in 2015.
PF – I was involved in the setting up the pitch in Stradbrook, doing groundsman work, to bring it up to LOI standard and the logistics with Cabinteely LOI side. I was made Honorary President of Cabinteely FC League of Ireland which I am immensely proud of. We had a rocky start but have improved on a yearly basis. Pat Devlin and his staff have taken it to another level. I hope we can build on this. The pathway is in place from U8 all the way to League of Ireland. Not many clubs can say that.
PD – You have had a long association with current Cabinteely Director of Football Pat Devlin
PF – I have known Pat Devlin all my life. Our paths had crossed countless times before my time (as goalkeeping coach) at Bray Wanderers. He is a football person who puts in so much time. I think he is the right person to push the club on to the next level. There is nobody better. Reaching the play-off’s last year was a momentous moment for the club. We must build on that going forward.
PD – What are your hopes for Cabinteely going forward?
PF – Improved facilities would be my ambition. Facilities are all that is really holding the club back. If we had the required facilities, the sky’s the limit. We are limited in some aspects at Kilbogget Park despite the number of pitches. The all-weather pitch came at the right time for us. From that, the club grew. The club continues to grow, so the facilities need to meet that demand.
We thank Pat Finnerty for his time at Cabinteely FC. He has left an indelible mark on the club. But we know we can still rely on his experience when needed. Part two of Pat’s footballing career and life coming soon.