Finbarr Flood : An Appreciation – by Martin Fitzpatrick
Finbarr Flood has to have been one of the very few people I ever met who hit all the life targets that were set for him. That he did so spectacularly and with such grace and good humour made him that bit special.
He rose from the bottom to the top in business. He joined the Guinness Brewery as a 14 year-old ‘boy messenger’ and eventually became managing director of the world famous brewery and the architect of revolutionary change that may well have saved the Brewery from a catastrophic collapse.
He had a special talent for football and was the Shelbourne goalkeeper when the club won only its second FAI Cup in 1960. He played professional football in Scotland (while he remained on the Guinness staff in Dublin) but perhaps his proudest achievement in sport was as chairman of Shelbourne when he helped spearhead the ‘Reds’ establishment as Dublin’s leading club during the 1990s. He was chairman when, in 2004, Shels were forty minutes away from immortality against the Spanish champions, Deportivo la Corona. A win that night might well have changed the face of Irish soccer forever. Alas it wasn’t to be.
Finbarr’s achievements weren’t just confined to business and sport. After leaving Guinness he became the chairman of the Labour Court and when he was finished that (and despite declining health) took on some of the most arduous city regeneration projects, including the brilliantly successful renewal of the Fatima Mansion complex in Rialto.
Born in 1939, he grew up on Oxmantown Road on the north side of the Liffey. His first football team was a local side Kirwan Rovers. He then joined Shamrock Rovers minors, but forgiveness came when he became part of the Gerry Doyle’s Babes, the Shels team that included such legendary names as Theo Dunne, Freddie Strahan, Joey Wilson, Jackie Hennessy and Eric Barber. The brilliant Manchester United star Tony Dunne was also part of this team.
Shortly after Shels’ Cup success tht year, Finbarr and Shamrock Rovers player Paddy Turner went to play for Greenock Morton in Scotland and Finbarr managed for several years to combine his Guinness shifts with net-keeping for the famous Scottish outfit. Turner ended up playing for Celtic but Finbarr returned home to hold down his decent pensionable job and play part-time in the League of Ireland (which he continued to cherish despite his repeated acknowledgment of its faults).
In the brewery he was breaking totally new ground. Having become managing director of Guinness Dublin he had succeeded in breaking barriers of class and religious prejudice that had been in place for centuries. Moreover he went on to leave the fusty 200 year-old Dublin institution with a sense of purpose facing a new Millennium. Alas the same sort of miracle cure was not available for the League of Ireland or indeed for Shels. But he was chairman when Shels and Ollie Byrne were giving it their best shot.
As fans we never forget Shels moment in the Big Time and he won’t forget Finbarr’s part in that either.
We offer our deep condolences to his wife Anne.