Cooney rewarded for strong displays
Connacht scrum-half John Cooney has been named the province's player of the month for January.
The Player of the Month Award is presented in association with Hartmanns of Galway and SEIKO Watches, but it is voted for by Connacht supporters via an online poll.
In January's poll, Cooney - who will leave the province at the end of the season and make the move to Ulster - took more than 50 per cent of the votes with fellow No 9 Kieran Marmion and flanker Jake Heenan also nominated.
Each month three players are put forward by the Connacht coaches for the award, but the ex-Leinster player edged the voting this time round.
And it was a much-deserved award for Cooney. After he returned from the shoulder injury sustained in last season's Pro12 final against Leinster, Cooney has looked sharp in the two months since. He has impressed in open play, where his eye for the try-line has seen him score two tries in his three league games to date.
But perhaps it is from the tee that the former Terenure player has been most impressive. With injuries to regular kickers Jack Carty, Marnitz Boshoff and Craig Ronaldson, Cooney has assumed the role where he held a 100 per cent success rate for the province until he missed his 14th kick against Zebre in the Champions Cup.
That day against the Italians he played at out-half for the first time in his professional career and slotted admirably into the role and steered his side to a ten-try victory, while he ended with a 21-point haul including his side's crucial second try.
Cooney also featured off the bench in the agonising defeat to Toulouse, but started last month's loss away to Ospreys. He is sure to be a key player in the months ahead.