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Value of sport underlined for Cooney

Conor Cooney, St Thomas', and Caimin Killeen, Loughrea, shake hands following the drawn Brooks Galway SHC Final.

Conor Cooney, St Thomas', and Caimin Killeen, Loughrea, shake hands following the drawn Brooks Galway SHC Final.

By Cian O’Connell

Conor Cooney has learned many lessons during an eventful decade spent hurling with St Thomas’ and Galway.

Epic victories enjoyed and demanding defeats endured, Cooney has remained cool, staying relevant to the fortunes of club and county teams.

Thomas’ and Loughrea drew a thrilling western decider last weekend and will clash again at Pearse Stadium on Sunday in a Brooks Galway SHC Final replay.

This year, 2022, represented a welcome return to a full calendar of matches in every competition following a tough time disturbed by Covid restrictions.

The value of sport has been underlined in recent years according to Cooney. “It has, I have always thought that it has been important,” he replies.

“We saw during the lockdowns when sport got the go ahead to go again you saw what it meant to people. It brightened people's lives, it shortens the winter for people, it is a long few months to look into without having a bit of sport to look forward to.

“As a nation we are sports mad, the GAA is no different, locally I think it gives a lift to older people, and, I suppose, to younger people too.

“For kids in school it is great for them to have the excitement of supporting a team. They are getting into the swing of it, the supporting, the buzz, and all that goes along with it. So it is nice for them too. It is a positive thing.”

As a primary school teacher Cooney had to adapt to new ways of educating. Remote learning and online classes were rolled out, pupils had to demonstrate resilience coping with the changed circumstances.

“It was a different challenge,” Cooney says. “It was challenging for everyone. It was tough on kids, more so than anyone, just on the social side, not being able to meet up with friends, things like that.

“It was obviously hard, kids are resilient, they are coming back well. Could more support be given to schools and things? Probably, but it was a hard time for everyone. You just got on with it.”

Cooney has relished the nature of the current championship with games arriving thick and fast. “There is,” Cooney replies when asked about the enjoyment aspect of being involved. “Personally I wouldn't like training for weeks on end with no match to look forward to. I'd prefer to be playing games, I think it has been a good championship, it has been a competitive championship.

“Teams have been taking lumps out of each other for the whole thing, it has been intense, but we were fortunate enough that we topped the group so we had one less hurdle to jump at a time when we probably needed a bit of a rest.”

Another battle with neighbours Loughrea beckons for Thomas’ in Salthill.