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Stephen Coen: ‘You need to be able to adapt’

Mayo footballer Stephen Coen.

Mayo footballer Stephen Coen.

**By Cian O'Connell **

In his press briefing ahead of Sunday’s fascinating Connacht SFC Semi-Final clash against Galway in Salthill, Mayo manager Stephen Rochford spoke about the importance of versatility.

“We like to have an element of adaptability to each and every opposition, but also looking to play to what we feel are our strengths,” Rochford remarked.

One of the emerging players in the Mayo panel, Stephen Coen, who captained the Green and Red to All Ireland glory at minor and Under 21 level, is a perfect illustration of what Rochford means.

The UCD student has operated in several different roles for Mayo and is simply willing to embrace whatever challenge Rochford sets for him.

“I see myself where Mayo need me,” Coen says. “It’s good to be versatile for me personally so you don’t pigeon hole yourself for a certain position.

“Stephen appreciates that players are able to adapt to certain positions. Even if you look at games at Croke Park. You could start at No 5 and end up at No 12 because people just keep changing and there is match-ups. You need to be able to adapt and change positions and hopefully develop those positions.”

That is the case at Mayo training too according to Coen where significant experimentation takes place. “Definitely, they demand and challenge us all the time, to put us different positions and different scenarios to make sure we are somewhat ready for them when it comes to the games,” Coen states.

For the past couple of months Coen, an Agricultural Science student in UCD, has been on placement with Teagasc in Athenry. “I would be big into farming, the boys would slag me about it,” Coen laughs. “I am the only farmer in the squad – there’s no one that I can talk to about it.”

Coen will select the next step in his career soon. “I am not too sure yet, I might do a PHD or try to get into veterinary. I haven’t decided yet.”

Stephen Coen captained Mayo to All Ireland under 21 glory in 2016.

Stephen Coen captained Mayo to All Ireland under 21 glory in 2016.

Mayo’s Connacht SFC Quarter-Final win over Sligo was satisfactory with Coen believing that there is good depth in the panel.

“Very good, seriously competitive environment at the minute,” Coen says. “You could see that in the game the last day. The players that came on are easily as good as the players that came off. It’s really competitive at the minute.

“Our squad is getting stronger and stronger every time. Under 21 players, there is a few new guys in as well so. That adds that little bit of naivety that’s good for a team. Everyone is ambitious and that drives everyone on.”

A year ago Mayo, with Coen influential, earned All Ireland honours at Under 21 level. Is Coen surprised that more of that team haven’t graduated to the senior set-up?

“You have to realise that the players that are involved in the squad are a really high standard,” Coen answers. “And it’s not as simple as progressing from Under 21 to senior in six months.

“It takes a lot of time and a lot of hard work. In fairness Stephen has done very well at trying to integrate players in as much as he can. It will happen gradually over the next couple of years.”

Establishing himself as a regular with Mayo is Coen’s current brief. Ultimately, that is what Coen hopes to accomplish, but he is wary of Galway’s growing belief and momentum.

“There is no doubt about it, Galway are in a serious vein of form at the moment. Connacht champions, Under 21 Connacht champions. And now they are a Division One team.

“Any of the top eight Division One teams are good enough to compete at any level in this country. They are a really strong outfit. We really need to be at the top of our game if we want to compete in that game.”