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Stephen’s day again for captain Coen


WINNING SMILES UCD captain Stephen Coen from Mayo celebrates with injured Dublin player Jack McCaffrey after last Saturday’s Sigerson Cup Final at Sportsfile. Pic: Sportsfile

Daniel Carey

Santry Avenue

THERE was a lovely moment in Santry Avenue, Dublin last Saturday, shortly before the presentation of the Sigerson Cup, when two Mayomen shared a handshake and a warm exchange. Stephen Coen was captain of the University College Dublin team which edged out the National University of Ireland, Galway side managed by Maurice Sheridan.
Twenty-one years may separate the duo, but they’re united in a passion for football and a love of their native county, and they know better than most the thin line between victory and defeat.
Coen has now captained teams to victories in All-Ireland finals at minor, under-21 and inter-varsity level ... and he’s already focused on the future. We wondered where his latest success ranked among his best days in football, but the 22-year-old was loath to classify it. That’s not the way he’s wired.
“Oh Jesus, I think it’s very hard to say that,” he explained.
“Look, it’s a great honour to play for Mayo; it’s a great honour to play for my club and for UCD. So every one you win is great, but I’m really not gonna look at that until I’m finished playing football.”
The idea that Coen is a ‘lucky general’ has certainly taken root amongst his team-mates. Gum-shield still in his mouth, he was embraced after the final whistle by UCD wing forward Liam Casey, who scored the winning point. “He never loses!”
Tipperary man Casey announced, with a nod at his captain, and much laughter ensued.
“It means an awful lot to me,” said Coen, reflecting on the significance of a competition he has now won twice.
“You don’t realise it, I suppose, until you go to university, and you’re playing with guys there that you’ve played against for the last seven or eight months. So there’s a bit of rivalry there, and to be able to relax and play together is great.”
In the match programme, Colm Keys of the Irish Independent quoted the former Kerry defender Paddy ‘Bawn’ Brosnan about the make-up of his ideal team. “Seven farmers, seven fishermen and a university student to kick the frees,” the Dingle native suggested. Adam Gallagher kicked three frees for NUI, Galway on Saturday, and also scored what looked to be a match-winning goal in the 49th minute.
It was a tidy finish from the Mayo Gaels man, who was joined in the starting 15 by Claremorris defender Stephen Brennan.
Maurice Sheridan’s squad also included Patrick Loftus (Crossmolina), Kevin Quinn (Ballinrobe), Gerry Canavan (Mayo Gaels) and Evan Cawley (Shrule).
There was a big cheer when Kieran Molloy, who dashed from Tullamore after playing his part in Corofin’s victory over Moorefield, came on as a second-half substitute for NUIG.
But it was UCD – in whose ranks Coen was joined by substitutes Eoin McGrath (Cill Chomáin) and Seán Conlon (Castlebar Mitchels) – who had the last laugh. Among the attendance at Santry Avenue were the captain’s parents, Liam and Mary Coen, and other relatives, including his uncle-in-law, County Board chairman Mike Connelly.
“My family are a great support to me and they always have been,” the agricultural science student revealed. “I don’t think they’ve ever missed a game that I’ve played in! It’s the same for a lot of fellas here, and that’s why [they] are excelling in football.”
Coen’s reference in his post-match speech to Dave Billings, the Dublin and UCD stalwart who died in 2015, drew warm applause. He told The Mayo News there should be live coverage of ‘every round, not just the final’, which was shown on YouTube by TG4. Reminded that his last Sigerson win had been part of a very busy 2016 (when he played in five All-Ireland finals), the half-back smiled.
“Yeah, and hopefully it’ll be just as busy this year! That’s the plan anyway!”

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