Conor Cooney: ‘We will be going all out to get silverware'
By Cian O'Connell
Injuries have ravaged Conor Cooney’s career, but the St Thomas attacker has enjoyed a productive spring in the maroon and white jersey.
Following St Thomas’ AIB All Ireland SHC Semi-Final defeat to Ballyea, Cooney quickly returned as a central figure for Micheal Donoghue’s team.
Cooney is now an established operator at the highest level with his 2-15 return from play in six matches since February offering evidence of his finishing ability.
It has been a curious Allianz Hurling League campaign for Galway, who didn’t earn promotion from Division 1B, but still find themselves involved in Sunday’s decider against Tipperary.
“Yeah, obviously at the start of the year you set out to want to get promotion,” Cooney says.
“You want to be competing against the top teams in the country week in, week out. That is the best preparation really for Championship. The way it is set up we still have the chance to win silverware, it is one of two national titles you can win so we are really looking forward to it in that regard.
“You are still competing against top, top teams, we are playing Dublin again in a few weeks time, you have to be thinking about that as well. It is great because the games are week on week, you can train play your match, train, and you can't dwell on it for too long.
“Coming up to the Championship you have weeks on end of just training in preparation while you'd prefer to just go out to play matches. It is great in that regard, we can look forward to a League Final, to try to get a bit of silverware.”
The 24 year old forward is delighted to have been completely injury free following a demanding stint. It has helped, I broke my foot twice, went through surgery on it the second time, I had a hip arthroscopy then which set me back as well. When you are injury free it is good.
“When you are coming back from injuries you are trying to get your fitness back to a certain level, when you are trying to work on your fitness, your hurling maybe suffers a small bit.
“When you are injury free you know your fitness can improve a certain amount so you can focus on hurling, you feel yourself that you are that bit more prepared.
“You can be that bit more competitive, you can stay going for 70 plus minutes. From a psychological standpoint it definitely stands to you having a clean bill of health, being able to get a good run at things.”
Primary school teacher Cooney joined the Galway panel in 2012 and believes the experience acquired during his time is now being truly utilised.
"Looking back then I was fierce young. You don't think it at the time, but you are very young and naive. I was a year out from minor, but you are still young and naive and don't realise the commitment it takes. You are going up and down to college, you can't get the preparation you can when you are set in a certain place.
"Then I had the setbacks, it is just sort of now that I feel I'm coming right a small bit. I'm that bit older and that bit more mature. You realise how you need to prepare, what goes into it, how you need to have the body much more right. Just looking forward to cracking on now.”
February brought deep disappointment for St Thomas’, the 2013 All Ireland Club Champions, who were beaten at the Semi-Final stage by Ballyea at Semple Stadium.
“It was tough,” Cooney admits. “Fair dues to Ballyea, they were the better team on the day. It didn't work out for them in the Final, but they are a top, top team.
“Fair dues to Cuala, they were well set up and trained by Mattie Kenny, who did a great job with them. It was a bit of a disappointment, we staged a bit of a comeback at the end, but we didn't perform to the level we would have liked to perform so I suppose you are unhappy in that regard.
“If you play to your max and feel it didn't work out you can say fair enough, but it took us a long time to get going which was disappointing. Look it, you just have to get back on the horse, I think we were back training the following week. We didn't have too long to dwell on it or feel sorry for ourselves.”
Bolstered by the return of Jonathan Glynn and the promise of Thomas Monaghan, Cooney acknowledges that Galway have increased options in attack.
“Definitely, you are on your toes big time,” Cooney says. “If you are off form you are going to be off, there is going to be someone there to step in to take your spot. You have to be very competitive, to keep yourself right, to keep things going.
“It is great to have Johnny back, it is fantastic for us, a more dedicated man you won't get. So it is great to have him back in the squad, the competition he is going to make in the forward line, you'll have more fighting Niall Burke, Tom Monaghan, and the lads that are always there anyway. We will be on our toes, fighting hard for a position.”
Galway and Tipperary have contested two gripping All Ireland Semi-Finals in 2015 and 2016 so a keen rivalry is developing.
“There is, yeah,” Cooney states. “It is a top Tipp team, but we have no inferiority complex or anything.
“We won't back down, we will show them every respect they deserve, but when the ball is thrown in we will give it our all and we will cut into them. You aren't going to stand back to wait for it to happen because if you do stand back their forwards especially will destroy you. We are looking forward to it.”
Of those likely to see action this weekend Tipperary only have two League medalists, Galway possess four so Cooney is eager to help the Tribesmen lift a trophy. “I think we have only four that were involved in 2010 with the League.
“The Leinster in 2012, I'm not sure how many were there, but a lot of guys have no silverware with Galway at all. So absolutely, it is only one of two national titles you can win with your county, we will be going all out to get silverware.”