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Journey continues for Cooney as he finally makes Irish debut

The 27-year-old came off the bench in Saturday’s win over Japan.

John Cooney after the win over Japan on Saturday.
John Cooney after the win over Japan on Saturday.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

By John Fallon in Tokyo

SCRUM-HALF JOHN Cooney said it was a huge honour to make his Irish debut when he came on in Saturday’s 35-22 win over Japan.

The 27-year old, who is leaving Connacht to join Ulster next season, replaced his Sportsground teammate Kieran Marmion and almost crowned the occasion with a try.

“I am absolutely delighted, it was nice to get on and it was something I was working hard on over the last few weeks,” said Cooney, who was not included in the matchday squads for the opening two games against USA and Japan.

He became the eighth and final member of the touring squad to be capped and said his primary aim now is to hit the ground running with Ulster and try get back in for the November internationals.

Cooney, who made his European debut when coming on for Leinster in the Heineken Cup final win over Ulster in 2012, has had to battle a string of injuries to get this far.

“I think it’s three or four surgeries on my shoulder in the last few years, even last year in the PRO12 final, I dislocated my shoulder, and that was six months’ out, so the main thing going through my head, doing fitness work, was to make this tour, to make the Ireland squad. So, it was nice to achieve it at the end of the season.

John Cooney The scrum-half in action on his Irish debut. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“I think at this stage now it’s more mental than physical, so I’ve really worked on my mental side, to be able to adapt to different circumstances and make sure I’m doing as much mental work as I can. I’m seeing someone in Galway to help me with that side of my game, I think it’s something I’ve developed through adversity, but pretty important now.”

He moved from Leinster to Connacht three years ago to get game-time but then found Kieran Marmion coming through ahead of him as an international so when the opportunity came to join Ulster when it was announced Ruan Pienaar was leaving, he jumped at the chance.

“I think it was a bit of a no-brainer. Kieran is a great rugby player – he even came late and stuff so I just saw when Ruan was leaving that it was an opportunity before I left Connact. So, it was something I felt I could do again and I’m looking forward to signing for Ulster, getting to know the boys here on tour and playing with Paddy Jackson in this game, just a new experience

“It was a difficult thing to do but for me it was just an opportunity. I know people didn’t want to influence my decision because I loved Connacht – I loved everything about it. My mum’s from Sligo, I had a background there but at the end of the say it’s head over heart.”

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