INPHO/Cathal Noonan Galway's Conor Cooney.
# Club Tied
Conor Cooney to sit out Fitzgibbon Cup semi-final
Commitments to All-Ireland club finalists St Thomas will prevent the Galway hurler from featuring in the third-level competition.

EAMONN CREGAN HAS confirmed that he will have to plan without Galway hurler Conor Cooney for Mary Immaculate College’s first ever Fitzgibbon Cup semi-final appearance next week.

Cooney yesterday lined out as part of the side that claimed honours in the quarter-final against Dublin IT and can now look forward to a last four clash on Friday week, March 1st.

But that clash marked the Galway attacker’s first appearance in this year’s competition as he has been focused on his club St Thomas and their All-Ireland club campaign.

The Peterswell-Kilchreest club made history last Saturday in Clones by defeating reigning champions Loughgiel Shamrocks to reach their first ever All-Ireland club SHC final.

And with that St Patrick’s Day decider looming, Mary Immaculate College boss Cregan will have to plan now without Cooney.

“Conor Cooney will be gone the next day because of the club final. There was a doubt yesterday morning (about him playing against Dublin IT) but that was reversed. And in the second half, when we needed him, we brought him to full-forward and then half forward. He’s a tremendous player. I had him since first year.”

Despite that loss Cregan praised the achievement of his players as they now look set to a semi-final tie with Limerick IT or Waterford IT. The 1973 All-Ireland senior winner with Limerick pinpointed a training session the team held in Cratloe in Clare in early January, which was conducted by Derry O’Donovan – Cregan’s sidekick when he managed the Offaly seniors – as key to their progress.

That helped a star-studded team which features players like Limerick’s Declan Hannon, Cork’s Luke O’Farrell and Clare’s John Conlon to flourish. Limerick senior Gavin O’Mahony and Tipperary senior Timmy Hammersley have also played important roles in assisting Cregan with the coaching duties.

“You know the size of Mary I. You know the number of male students that we have and a lot of them wouldn’t be hurlers. So we have a very small pick. But they all know for each other and play for each other. They play for themselves and for Mary I. There’s a tremendous spirit in Mary I.

“They haven’t surprised me with the ability of the hurling they’ve played because I know each one of them and they all have tremendous skill. But when you think about it, we came back on January 4. We ran in Cratloe and they came through that reasonably well. We didn’t ask the intercounty players to train with us – we left them to the county managers. Then we made John Conlon captain.

“We had a very good Ryan Cup team last year. The lads felt they were good enough to go into the Fitzgibbon but it’s a different ball game. This year, we applied and we got in. We’re still on a journey.”

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