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'Mam used to be working out of the car. They gave up everything for us, and we were very fortunate for that'

Galway’s Charlotte Cooney talks about the role her parents played in her sporting life.

THERE WAS ALWAYS going to be one winner when it came to the time for the Cooney sisters to pick one sport to focus on.

aig-lgfa-up-event Galway's Charlotte Cooney. Source: Eóin Noonan/SPORTSFILE

Originally from Castlerea in Roscommon, the pair are cornerstone members of the Galway Ladies’ defensive unit. They were both sprung from the bench during last year’s All-Ireland final where they bowed out to three-in-a-row winners Dublin in biblical rain.

They also started against Monaghan in their Group 2 decider win last month which assured Galway’s safe passage into the All-Ireland semi-finals. The occasion, however, was bittersweet for the Cooneys as Fabienne — the elder of the two — was issued a straight red card following an altercation with Monaghan’s Muireann Atkinson.

The Cooney clan made the switch between Connacht counties when Charlotte was 10 years old while Fabienne was heading into first year in secondary school.

They joined the Claregalway GAA club where they went on to enjoy All-Ireland intermediate success in 2013. Gaelic football was also their father’s first love in sport.

So when decision time rolled around, the sisters had an easy choice to make. Their life of “playing every sport under the sun” was promptly distilled down to giving all their energy to the O’Neill’s ball.

“My parents just lived in the car with us, they were bringing us everywhere,” Charlotte tells the media when reflecting on those hectic days of playing sport as a youngster.

I remember going to training when we were younger, Mam used to be working out of the car. They gave up everything for us, and we were very fortunate for that.”

Cooney’s mother owns a bridal boutique and that interest in fashion and retail has been passed down to Charlotte, who now works in Brown Thomas.

That line of work suffered huge disruptions during the Covid-19 pandemic. Ireland is now on Level 3 restrictions, which allows retail outlets like Brown Thomas to open its doors and enjoy some much-needed business in the run-up to Christmas.

But for much of the lockdown period, these shops have been closed. Cooney is still being furloughed on the day that she speaks to the media, but she has an uplifting take on how this lockdown has impacted her life.

niamh-carr-and-charlotte-cooney Charlotte Cooney on the ball for Galway. Source: Evan Logan/INPHO

“I was off work from March for the first lockdown and then we went back for June, July, August and September and then with lockdown again, I’ve been off work.

“So it’s been good and bad. It’s quite challenging and it can be stressful sometimes thinking about it.

“But on the other side, it’s actually great for football. I’m enjoying the time off and I’ve way more time for recovery and my life was so busy at the start. You were going constantly all the time and I’ve a couple of hours now to chill and enjoy the time off.

I revolve my days around it really. I try to keep as much of a routine as I can. I’m doing a bit of work with my mum as well keeping busy but the days are flying. I don’t feel like I’m bored or anything like that, so it’s grand.”

The Women’s Gaelic Players’ Assocation [WGPA] has services available for players who have been adversely affected by Covid-19. Cooney says she has looked up various supports that offer assistance during this difficult time while her family and team-mates have been a huge help to her as well.

Overall though, Cooney doesn’t feel too overwhelmed by her work situation and the recent easing of restrictions will certainly offer her a boost as Christmas approaches.

But as she stresses at various times in a video call with the media, her football is her main priority for now.

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After the disappointment of losing out at the final stage last year, Galway are back in a semi-final again this weekend.

Cork will provide the opposition in a repeat of their 2017 quarter-final tie which ended in a 6-19 to 1-10 win for the Munster side.

“I think a lot has changed with both teams,” says Cooney when asked about that game from three years ago, “there’s been a lot of players that have come and gone in both panels.

“Again, different time of year. You were playing summer football then and now it’s winter football we’re playing. I think both teams are pretty well matched. If we work really hard and play to our potential, I think it’ll be a good competitive game.”

Galway are no stranger to playing in poor weather conditions, particularly after the torrential downpour that hampered last year’s All-Ireland final.

There hasn’t been any summer football to enjoy during this year’s championship either, as the entire competition has been exposed to winter weather due to the Covid-19 delay. 

aine-mcdonagh-dejected-after-the-game Disappointed Galway players after last year's All-Ireland final. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“Last year, it was constant rain,” says Cooney.
“I don’t think it stopped raining from the minute we went on the pitch. The first score didn’t go in until the end of the first half so you just have to prepare for every eventuality.

“The game isn’t as fast. We would have a lot of runners down the middle. They can be slowed down with the heavy ground and you don’t have that sprint off the ball. When you’re kicking the ball, it’s not going straight to chest, it’s sliding along the ground, so play can be broken up.”

There has been some controversy in the build-up to Sunday’s final-four clash. It was originally scheduled to take place at the LIT Gaelic Grounds, but has since been moved to Dublin’s Parnell Park.

The Limerick grounds is no longer available to the LGFA as it is needed to host a training session for the Limerick hurlers that day, ahead of the All-Ireland final against Waterford on 13 December. 

It will be a long drive for both sides to the capital this weekend, but come the 1.30pm throw-in, a place in the All-Ireland final will be the only item up for discussion.

“I think we’ve really been tested in the last two games, it wouldn’t do us any favours going out beating those two teams by whatever amount of points.

“I think the challenge and the competitiveness will really stand to us. And we had to dig out those two wins in the end, and I think that will stand to us against Cork especially.”

Galway footballer, Charlotte Cooney, was on hand to launch the offer ahead of the All-Ireland Championship semi-finals. For exclusive benefits, visit the AIG website.

- Originally published at 6am

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