Stephen Coen appreciates Championship adventure
By Cian O'Connell
When Aidan O'Shea hoisted the Nestor Cup into the cool Salthill air it signified a number of things.
Mayo's first Connacht Championship in five years had been secured, the green and red flag perched proudly on the western summit again.
An All Ireland semi-final date had been secured so a trip to Croke Park beckoned.
More simply, though, a further three weeks of planning and plotting had been secured. For Stephen Coen that mattered deeply.
"I suppose we hadn't done it in a while - 2015," Coen says. "The last couple of years didn't go to plan in terms of Connacht. We were trying to improve the whole way through.
"Look, it's been enjoyable. The big thing for us is that we have three more weeks together, get to train together. That was a big carrot for us at the end of it."
Perhaps one of the greatest lessons absorbed in the chaotic year of 2020 is to enjoy and appreciate things that were previously taken for granted.
New ways and methods are being implemented with Coen acknowledging that the logistics of travelling to a match has changed so much.
"It's interesting," Coen replies. "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."
Ultimately, Coen is happy to be involved at this stage of the Championship.
"It's just the times we're in, you have to appreciate that side of things," Coen adds.
"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."
Presently the blend of emerging and established players in the Mayo panel provides a talking point.
Coen is in the middle ground of footballers, the bunch that secured All Ireland minor and Under 21 glory in 2013 and 2016.
The younger brigade have offered an injection of hope according to Coen. "They made an effort to mix amongst the group and have really added to the togetherness," Coen remarks.
"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."