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'Great craic along the way' - Coen ready to face former UCD team-mates

Mayo’s Stephen Coen played for the south Dublin college alongside Tipperary trio Jimmy Feehan, Liam Casey and Colin O’Riordan.

Mayo’s Stephen Coen.
Mayo’s Stephen Coen.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

WHEN MAYO TAKE to the field against Tipperary on Sunday, Stephen Coen can count a number of former team-mates on the opposition team.

For the third time in five seasons, Mayo and Tipperary meet in the championship following victories for the Westerners in 2016 and 2018.

Coen, UCD’s Sigerson Cup winning captain two years ago, enjoyed some great days on the field alongside a few of the Premier’s big names.

“I would have played with Jimmy Feehan, Liam Casey and [Colin] O’Riordan when we were in first year,” the PhD student recalls.

“We won a Freshers together and then we played together for my whole Sigerson career.

“Great guys, would have been in the same course with two of them, very friendly with them, great craic along the way and we played a good bit of football together. So it’ll be nice to play against them the next day.”

Mayo survived a heavy run of fixtures after the restart, playing five games in 28 days following two Division 1 ties and then their three-match run to the Connacht title. Those three championship fixtures all involved away trips.

Coen says travelling seperately in cars has its perks for individual preparation.

“It’s interesting. If you were in a bus on the way to a game with 35 people, they all want to prepare for the game in their own unique way.

“If you’re a person who likes to joke and have the craic and the person beside you wants to be serious and listen to music, it’s very hard to get that balance right.

“At least when you’re in the car on you’re own in your own thoughts, if you want to ring someone you can. If you want to listen to music you can, or if you just want to be quiet and focus you can.

“From that point of things you can have your own unique prep. Obviously getting home and stuff you’d be tired after the game. There’s something nice about going together in a fleet or a bunch of cars heading in together.

“It’s just the times we’re in, you have to appreciate that side of things. Obviously if you’re not driving you can relax on the bus and stuff like that. It’s not the end of the world, we’re just in a privileged position to be able to play to be honest.

“So if that’s the only bit of extra work we have to do in terms of performance then we’re happy enough to do so.”

stephen-coen-lifts-the-sigerson-cup Coen lifts the Sigerson Cup in 2018 with his UCD team-mates. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Despite the condensed nature of the season, Mayo have enjoyed a three-week break ahead of the last four clash.

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In 2019, following a run through the backdoor and then three Super 8s games in as many weeks, they endured a six-day turnaround before facing Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final.

“Obviously playing five games in five weeks is intense, but it’s something we kind of relished,” he says.

“We knew that with the younger guys we have in the group, the competitiveness in the group and size of the squad, we felt we could take on the five weeks.

“In some of them games we just mightn’t have been happy with our performance, that’s maybe why it was a bit tighter. But overall I think we managed the five weeks well and we’re just happy to be playing to be honest.

“We’ve a guy Conor Finn, he’d be our strength and conditioning coach. Evan Regan is our nutritionist and then we’ve an absolutely brilliant medical team. From that side of things it’s never really a worry for us too much.

“We always feel like they get the balance right between giving us enough recovery, fueling us with the right fuel and making sure the bodies are right.”

Among the most impressive young guns to break into the Mayo side have been Oisin Mullin and Eoghan McLaughlin, who Coen says have added a lot to the group.

“Both of them are extremely good players. Full of energy, just want to work hard, very honest players. Like everyone that’s come through at their age group, they’ve really added a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the group.

“There’s a bit more craic and it’s brought down the average age of the group as well. What I’m very impressed with is they’ve blended with guys who’ve been here a while very quickly. 

“They made an effort to mix amongst the group and have really added to the togetherness. As you can see from the performances they just play with the shackles off, want to hunt after the ball, attack as much as possible and just work really hard.

“I think it’s admirable the way they’ve played. A lot of us guys who’ve been playing for a while now have learned a lot from them.”

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

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Kevin O'Brien

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