He played his part in the long-since immortalised Munster win over the All Blacks in 1978, during his 14-season run pulling on the red jersey, and he was a Triple Crown-winner with Ireland in 1982.
“My father sent me to Pres though and they went to Spioraid Naomh. I’d have stuck with the GAA with Bishopstown if it wasn’t for rugby.”
You’d imagine if Finn had concentrated on Gaelic football he’d have prospered. Not that he’d admit it.
“In 1970, Wales were in Dublin. There had been a bit of hassle the year before, but, with the first ball, McGann tackled Barry John, the Irish pack went over him, and he didn’t kick a ball for the rest of the match. Ireland won and McGann kicked a drop goal. He probably should have gone with the Lions after, though Gibson went, instead.”
“Tommy Kiernan believed in me. He always did and he called me back and we won the Triple Crown. I’d 14 caps, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but look, Ollie Campbell only had 20. The same opportunities weren’t there. In 1985, I was sub against England and I was picked against France, but I couldn’t play because of shingles.”
He taught in old rivals, Christians, for a year, but “the family business was more important”.
While on one level, nothing could match the pride and significance of wearing the Irish geansaí, or Munster’s 1978 win, the club — especially Cork Con — mattered to Finn.
“We’d struggle with Shannon on wet days. Niall O’Donovan brought that toughness from Shannon, when he went in with (Declan) Kidney. I know it’s a cliché, ‘forwards win games and backs decide by how much’, but you’re never going to win anything with only a team of Simon Zebos. It’s the same in GAA. If you don’t dominate midfield… forget it most of the time.”
Though determined not to spend our chat in SoHo reminiscing about his own time, Finn does get frustrated at the overly complicated approach now, the obsession with fitness fads and gym work. Particularly when it’s to the detriment of the club.
“Lads were still very fit. There’s a lot to be said for steak and milk over protein shakes.
“You have the odd exception, like Peter O’Mahony who is a great guy and whose father is president of Con next year, but the balance isn’t there between the clubs and provinces.”
He has huge admiration for O’Mahony, but – as the man who gave O’Gara his first rugby ball when he called into the shop at the age of four – Finn always gets a buzz from Corkonians starring with Munster and Ireland.
“From an Irish point of view you’d always be thrilled to see Cork players get on. That’s only natural. James Cronin has struggled with injuries but I think he has what you need to make it to the very top. His brother Miah is a very good player as well.
“I love Zebo because he’s true to himself. The bit of flair he brings is what the fans love. He’ll be missed.”
One of the biggest thrills Finn got was sharing a pitch with his namesake, Kerry’s Moss Keane, one of the warriors of ’78 at Thomond Park.
“Moss Keane for me is very under-rated. The ban ended in 1971 but Moss had to play rugby under a pseudonym. Pat Parfrey got him in as a post-grad.
“Even when the ban was lifted it still existed unofficially. He won a county medal with college in October 1973, the College beat Bantry Blues; he played with Munster against the All Blacks in November; he played in Parc des Princes against France the following January… A genuine legend.
“When I was in UCC his status supplanted the university itself. He used to drive a Fiat 500 from the back seat, the front seat was taken out so he could fit into it, driving the road between Bill Ludgate’s and the Western Star.
“To stand in a dressing room with him was unbelievable for me. He was my sporting god. He encapsulated everything I aspired to. He never forget to have fun either.
“I remember doing a sponsored run in aid of Pat Carroll from the run – it was 10k – and with a couple of miles to go Moss Keane just whizzed past myself and Kiernan. We would have fit out but he burned us. Himself and Willie Duggan (the Kilkenny native who passed away last year) were enforcers in our era, but they could play too.”
Though he would have liked to stay involved in hands-on way when he retired, work commitments made a coaching career too tricky to pull off.
“I coached Con for about three years, the backs, and I was a backs coach with Munster. It was around ’89-90 to ’93 but I couldn’t always make the matches with the shop. I’d be at training having missed a match and you can’t do that. There was no path into coaching then.
“I think that’s why Kidney was such a good coach because when he was 27/28 he was coaching Pres’ junior team. It was purely out of a love of coaching and even if there was no money in coaching he’d have stuck at it.”
Golf – he’s a member of Lee Valley having lived in Ballincollig before returning to Bishopstown – is the 60-year-old’s sporting outlet now.
“Pilates got me back playing. I do it once a week with Garrett Flynn.
“I wouldn’t boast about anything and I’m not really comfortable talking about myself, but I’d definitely have been a better player if we’d that. Not weights now, but the core work. I used to keep pulling hamstrings when I was at my best and it was that the back wasn’t right. All we ever did to help the hamstrings was stretch, but sure the back of the leg wasn’t strong enough.”
He didn’t do half bad all the same!