At last Friday night’s County Dinner Dance Paul Finlay received a special award to mark the occasion of his retirement from County Football. Over the years many kind words have been written by sports journalist about this wonderfully gifted Ballybay footballer. However this week I came across a piece written by Paul’s club colleague Joe Sullivan. It’s a great piece of writing which I hope you all enjoy as much as the Ballybay News did.

“What is there to left to say about Paul Finlay? Without doubt the most naturally gifted footballer I ever had the pleasure to play with. Paul was marked for greatness from birth and didn’t disappoint. He was well known for his left football but was comfortable with his right. He was a magnificent fielder of a ball. He was brave beyond reason despite the long line of faceless assassins who, knowing they couldn’t match him in ability resorted to all manner of skulduggery to dampen his influence on games.
The sublime point scoring that would have drawn breath had it came from another player just seemed routine when coming from Paul. The memories are nearly endless. But here’s 4 just from his county days.

The “Hail Mary” goal v Meath. Ok, it was a wee bit lucky but Paul was 40 yards out and had been told it was the last kick of the game. If the ball goes a ball width further, it goes over the bar. If it goes a ball width less, Mark Ward catches it on his chest, the judgement was not inch perfect it was millimetre perfect. No other player in Ireland could have done that.
His Championship debut against Armagh when he scored 8 points from 8 attempts. One of the points in the second half was so far out, it was nearly in another townland! It also inspired the legendary Michael O’Muircheartaigh to remark in his radio commentary, “ Its rising, it’s rising, it’s over the bar and it’s still rising”!

There was a point v Fermanagh in the 2010 Ulster semi final in Brefini Park, where he bent over a sideline ball from the 13, a point so good the Fermanagh fans applauded.
But the one that will stick in my mind forever will be the last minute point against Longford in the final league game in 2005 in Clones. We had been cruising to a 5 point win when 2 quick fire goals left us a point behind in the last minute of injury time. Shane McManus catches the kickout and gives it to Paul. One last chance. If he misses, we don’t qualify for semi final, don’t beat Meath in the final and the springboard for everything that followed might not have happened. With nerves of steel, Paul clears the crossbar from 55 metres with 3 guys hanging off him. As Banty said afterwards, there’s no one you would rather have in that situation.

But on top of everything, Paul was one of the good guys. A gentleman like his father before him. He never refused an autograph or photo request. The ultimate role model for anyone, not just in sport, but in life.

Thanks for everything Paulie. Hopefully now you will get a chance to add to your club collection of medals”.
Joe Sullivan