James Finnerty Interview – by Conall Collier

One of the new faces at the Showgrounds for 2023 is James Finnerty from Skryne in Co Meath. James had a chat with Conall Collier as he looked forward to the season ahead.

Hailing from Skryne, close to the historic Hill of Tara, defender James Finnerty is a new face at the Showgrounds for 2023.

The Meath man celebrated his 24th birthday at the beginning of February and arrived at the Showgrounds after spending the latter part of the 2022 season on loan at Galway Utd.

A defender with a solid reputation, he  returned to the League of Ireland when he was recruited by Bohemian FC manager Keith Long in 2019 after a stint in the UK. There followed  three full seasons with the Phibsboro’ club, but the first part of 2022, season number four, turned out to be a frustrating period.

James was a talented under-age Gaelic player with Skryne GAA club and he also played with Skryne/Tara FC and then with Ratoath Harps before joining top Dublin club Belvedere FC. He was subsequently invited for trials at Aston Villa and was offered a contract in 2015.

James takes up the story:

“In the Gaelic my favourite position was centre-forward, but it was difficult to play both the Gaelic football and the soccer and it was something I had to make a decision about,” he said.

“With Belvedere I was also playing in the Dublin & District Schoolboys’ League Kennedy Cup side and I knew I just couldn’t do that and the GAA successfully,” he added.

As a transition-year student at St Patrick’s CS, Navan, James signed a three-year deal with Aston Villa and made the move to the UK.

“I went over to Aston Villa in 2015 and I have no regrets about the way things turned out, I enjoyed my three years there,” he said.

“I was training every day with top players like John Terry and Jack Grealish, the facilities were second to none and it was a brilliant opportunity for me.

“However, I got my fair share of injuries and that hampered my progress a bit, an eight-month lay-off in my first year when I got a stress fracture in my back was a setback,” he added.

James moved to Rochdale in 2018 in search of first team opportunities as, at the time, he was keen on staying in England.

There were a few clubs interested and he considered going to Brentford, but he felt he would get more first team opportunities at Rochdale, but it turned out to be a frustrating time.

“I wasn’t enjoying it, I was training all week and then on match days I was either on the bench or not in the squad, I never really settled and by the end I was fed up,” he recalled.

“I just wanted to play football and at that stage I had my mind made up, more or less, to come home,” he explained.

The Meath man made the most of the opportunity that a move to Dublin provided and he made the cut for the opening game of the 2019 season for Bohemian FC at home to Finn Harps.

“When I got the offer from Bohs manager Keith Long it was a chance and I decided to take it,” he continued.

“A lot of people thought that coming back home was a real step down in quality, but I didn’t feel that way at all.

“I knew it would be tough, but I saw how well Dundalk had done in European competitions so I knew it would be a good standard of football.

“I hadn’t played senior football in England, just youth and u-23, so playing for Bohs was my first time to experience senior football,” he added.

Looking back at some of the highlights in the League of Ireland so far, James cites a runner-up position with Bohemian FC in 2020 and also playing in Europe.

“We were delighted finishing ahead of Dundalk for second place in 2020 and playing in Europe was a fantastic experience as well, especially the games home (at the Aviva) and away against PAOK of Greece,” he recalled.

“I started last season well and was playing regularly, but then was sidelined for about three months with a knee injury, I got back around the mid-season break, but I wasn’t getting regular games.

“I wanted to play and I got the chance to go on loan to Galway who were chasing promotion, it was unfortunate that we lost against Waterford in the play-off.

“From my perspective, from the time at Galway, I played every week when I was there and that was my main objective.

“The move to Sligo came about when John (Russell) contacted me and we had a good chat.

“It developed from there, I was delighted to get the chance to play in the Premier Division and signed for the club.

“There is a good group of players at the club and we are all looking forward to the challenge of the new season,” he concluded.