Friday 9 December 2016

We're trying to write our own history. We're not concerned about the past - Coen

Published 28/04/2016 | 02:30

Stephen Coen: 'No matter how high the intensity or what the atmosphere is like we've always kept our composure in terms of talking together' Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
Stephen Coen: 'No matter how high the intensity or what the atmosphere is like we've always kept our composure in terms of talking together' Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

The three years have gone by in the flash of an eye for Mayo's Stephen Coen.

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On Saturday, the All-Ireland minor champions of 2013 will have just an hour left on their underage careers. After that, the stabilisers are off.

Saturday presents them with one more chance to sign off on a high before they head for the unforgiving world of senior football.

A handful of the Mayo side that will face Cork in Saturday's EirGrid U-21 All-Ireland final in Ennis have already made the step up to senior level but their focus is very much on backing up that minor success with another All-Ireland crown.

Along with Coen, Diarmuid O'Connor, Michael Hogan, Conor Loftus, and David Kenny have been in with Stephen Rochford's seniors. They will be expected to lead that charge this weekend and Hollymount-Carramore clubman Coen is hopeful that exposure, along with the experience of three years ago, will stand to them this weekend.

"I suppose in any final you learn from trying to close out a game or claw a game back," Coen agreed.

"So in your own head I think it's the pressure that you put on yourself.

"And when the game gets into a melting pot, it's about dealing with that pressure. I suppose when you've dealt with that pressure before it helps when you're going into a big game like this. Well, hopefully it will anyway," he smiled.

Coen estimates that around 50pc of the squad are different since 2013 while they also have a new management team in place, meaning that the similarities between the two finals is limited.

"I think it's going to be a very different occasion (than the minor final). It's going to be a smaller crowd but probably even more of an atmosphere.

"The stadium wouldn't have been full when we were playing in the minor.

"It'll be totally different game, a different team, a different age-group. Guys with different skills and powers. So I'm not really expecting much in terms of similarities to be honest."

The U-21 semi-finals produced two brilliant games with Mayo coming out of the traps fast against Dublin, building up a seven-point lead, only to find themselves trailing by four with eight minutes to go.

However, they held their nerve with Conor Loftus clipping over two injury-time frees to secure a one-point victory.

"No matter how high the intensity or what the atmosphere is like we've always kept our composure in terms of talking together," Coen said.

"We understand each other a lot and we listen to each other. We kept it together in that game, thankfully.

"I suppose we backed ourselves and the hard work we've done on the training field. We've done a lot of that hard conditioning work over the years. So it's stood to us (in the Dublin game), thankfully."

Mayo take on the Rebels in the final but also must face down the statistics that follow every Mayo team into an All-Ireland final.

The county have won just six of 35 finals at All-Ireland senior, minor, U-21 and club level, as well as league since 1985.

"Every championship is a new journey," Coen offered. "It's important that we focus on our own and focusing on our own game is all that we're doing.

"We're not focusing on any other team. We're trying to write our own history. We're not really concerned about what's happened before at any age level, because every year is different, every game is different."

If Mayo taking out Dublin caught the eye, Cork have perhaps taken an even bigger scalp.

They outmuscled Jack O'Connor's Kerry team in the Munster final. The Kingdom side was backboned by the last two All-Ireland minor-winning teams before going on to take out a talented Monaghan side last time out.

"We played before them the last day so we got to see them in the second game. They're a great team, great power, pace, work really hard.

"I suppose Cork's win against Monaghan and their win against Kerry instilled a belief in them too. It's going to be two teams with great belief in themselves, so it's going to be a cracking game."

Irish Independent

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