Plasmonic crystals provide many passive and active optical functionalities, including enhanced sensing, optical nonlinearities, light extraction from LEDs and coupling to and from subwavelength waveguides. Here we study, both experimentally and numerically, the coherent control of SPP beam excitation in finite size plasmonic crystals under focussed illumination. The correct combination of the illuminating spot size, its position relative to the plasmonic crystal, wavelength and polarisation enables the efficient shaping and directionality of SPP beam launching. We show that under strongly focussed illumination, the illuminated part of the crystal acts as an antenna, launching surface plasmon waves which are subsequently filtered by the surrounding periodic lattice. Changing the illumination conditions provides rich opportunities to engineer the SPP emission pattern. This offers an alternative technique to actively modulate and control plasmonic signals, either via micro- and nano-electromechanical switches or with electro- and all-optical beam steering which have direct implications for the development of new integrated nanophotonic devices, such as plasmonic couplers and switches and on-chip signal demultiplexing. This approach can be generalised to all kinds of surface waves, either for the coupling and discrimination of light in planar dielectric waveguides or the generation and control of non-diffractive SPP beams.