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Mayo footballer Stephen Coen pictured at the launch of the AIB Future Sparks Festival 2020, an innovative careers festival for senior cycle students, which is taking place on March 26 in the RDS.
Mayo footballer Stephen Coen pictured at the launch of the AIB Future Sparks Festival 2020, an innovative careers festival for senior cycle students, which is taking place on March 26 in the RDS.

Stephen Coen hoping to finish League strongly


By Cian O’Connell

Stephen Coen is well and truly used to the fluctuating nature of how the Mayo Gaelic Football team can be viewed.

The mood can change fast in the west so Mayo will relish the remaining two rounds of the Allianz Football League.

Injuries have ravaged Mayo in the competition thus far, but one significant source of optimism is the minutes and game time being afforded to emerging players in the Green and Red panel.

Oisín Mullin, Pádraig O’Hora, Ryan O’Donoghue, and Jordan Flynn have all supplied encouraging glimpses. Coen, who captained Mayo to All Ireland minor and Under 21 titles, acknowledges their emergence carries relevance.

“Absolutely, that is great, it is really refreshing for the group,” Coen admits. “It is great for new guys to get experience. If you want to have a big squad for the summer you need to have plenty of guys with plenty of experience, who have learned from a lot of tough, tough situations.

“They've done well when times were good as well. It is challenging, obviously we would love to have more fit, but one man's loss is another man's gain. So we have got some good lads getting good experience at the moment.”

Though Mayo have endured three losses in five matches, Coen is adamant that valuable lessons are being learned. “For any player you need to see how they get on and whether they can do well in adversity or when things aren't going well,” Coen states.

“It really brings out character in any player. I think them boys have played well in a few games and a few more - Padraig O'Hora, Jordan Flynn, players like that. Every bit of experience they get is great.

“You can see them at their best and then when things aren't going as well. So it is great to see how fellas stand up to that. Obviously in any Championship or in any sport you are going to have challenges along the way. This is a great moment for us now to see if we can step up to it over the next few weeks.”

Brian Howard, Dublin, and Stephen Coen, Mayo, following the 2019 All Ireland SFC Semi-Final at Croke Park.
Brian Howard, Dublin, and Stephen Coen, Mayo, following the 2019 All Ireland SFC Semi-Final at Croke Park.

A proud Hollymount-Carramore clubman, Coen is delighted that the newcomers are adding depth to the Mayo panel for the 2020 campaign.

“It is a great thing, I think a lot, especially with newer and younger guys, they back their instinct a lot,” Coen states.

“They don't really overthink stuff. That little bit of naivety is good often. The more experienced you get the more you maybe overthink stuff, it blunts the knife a small bit. It is great to have those guys onboard and you learn a lot from them too.”

Ultimately the stakes are piled high in Salthill this weekend. Mayo want to retain top tier status, while Galway want to secure a League final berth.

“Galway are looking to get to a League Final, and we are looking to try to stay up,” Coen states. “In other years it might have been different, but the most important thing is that Mayo and Galway have a big traditional rivalry. Supporters come and families come, there is great hype around the game.

“All we can do is focus on ourselves, to try to get the two points. Whether it is FBD or National League or Championship it is always a big game between Galway and Mayo.

“There is never going to be a lack of motivation for that game. We just need to focus on ourselves over the next 10 days, to try to make sure we are ready for a full 70 minute performance to get the two points.”

Being a Division One outfit matters deeply to Mayo. Coen is targeting a couple of victories against Galway and Tyrone. “I think it is the priority for anyone in Division One to be honest,” Coen remarks.

“If we were to go down we'd be disappointed. We haven't been totally happy with our performances so far, we played really well in spurts in games. Then we have been poor in games.

Stephen Coen in Allianz Football League action for Mayo against Donegal in January.
Stephen Coen in Allianz Football League action for Mayo against Donegal in January.

“So it is about trying to make sure that we get a good 70 minutes in each of the next two games, to try to ensure we can get four points from the four points available.

“Even then we don't know what will happen. You just have to strip it back, to focus on each session, to make sure you are right then for the next game.”

Having completed a four year degree in Animal Science, Coen is now in the middle of a PhD through Teagasc and UCD.

“I'm really enjoying it, I will have two years of the PhD done in June with two years left,” Coen says. “My main motive was that if I wanted to go down into academia in the role of a lecturer or research, I needed to have it. The main reason I did it was to give myself options.”

Balancing work, rest, and football can be demanding, but Coen finds a way. Being passionate about the subject and sport counts.

“I'm very lucky with two things,” Coen replies. “I made sure I liked the title of my project because I think you have to be passionate and enjoy what you're doing. Otherwise it will be a real struggle.

“You also need to have a good supervisor and I have an excellent supervisor in Professor David Kenny. He is a great support to me in terms of sport, he understands my time commitments and what is expected of me. He makes it very flexible for me that way.

“Teagasc really cater for a PhD student to be successful so I think I'm in a good place and I've really good facilities at the minute.”

On Mayo duty the versatile Coen is still ready, willing, and able to provide James Horan with solutions too.

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