Monday 26 February 2018

Leader-in-waiting Coen giving width to Mayo's options

Mayo's Stephen Coen at the Breaffy House Hotel, Co Mayo. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Mayo's Stephen Coen at the Breaffy House Hotel, Co Mayo. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The common consensus is that Dublin have a much superior bench to Mayo for Sunday's All-Ireland final.

The common consensus is that Dublin have a much superior bench to Mayo for Sunday's All-Ireland final.

If you can leave two former Footballer of the Year winners off for the duration of a semi-final and only give the most talented player of his generation a brief few minutes, it illustrates the depth that Dublin now go to.

But the impact of Mayo players introduced for the Kerry replay was arguably the best they've had for some time with Conor Loftus setting up a goal and scoring two points and Paddy Durcan, Stephen Coen and Danny Kirby also contributing to the flow.

Coen has been involved with Mayo since the latter part of the 2014 campaign but it's only in the last two seasons that he has moved in off the periphery.

Seen as a natural leader - he captained Mayo to their All-Ireland minor and U-21 titles in recent seasons - he has provided cover in a variety of roles, from tracking Diarmuid Connolly for the last 40 minutes of last year's All-Ireland final replay against Dublin after Lee Keegan had been black-carded to doing an important shift at midfield to help turn the Tralee league match against Kerry in February Mayo's way.

Coen has had to get used to life coming off the bench. From 17 championship appearances, there have been just five starts so he's got accustomed to being thrown in at the deep end as he was in last year's replay. Mayo know they can trust him though, as they did with the Connolly duties.

"We train to deal with any situation really because you could be earmarked to play someone, you could be midfield or you could be at full-back. It's the same when you're a substitute," he said.

"There's any one of nine fellas that could come and mark so you just have to trust your instinct because these games take on a life of their own and you just have to deal with it."

The call to action has come as early as the third minute of the qualifier against Cork after Donal Vaughan was black-carded.

"You have to go with your instinct because you literally haven't any time," he reflected. "In fairness to Stephen (Rochford), he isn't afraid to make any call, he will put you in if he thinks you are good enough to play.

"Thankfully, I suppose, Donie's loss was my gain, I got nearly a full game. Donie believed that I was going to come in to do a job for him and it would be the same the other way around."

Coen is an agricultural science student in UCD where Mick Fitzsimons, Con O'Callaghan and Jack McCaffrey are also based and he shares a house with Monaghan's Conor McCarthy, Barry O'Sullivan from Kerry and Kilkenny hurler James Maher.

From January to May the commuting demands on him and a number of other Dublin-based players, among them midfield pairing Tom Parsons and Seamus O'Shea, are intense. Sometimes sessions are organised for Dublin but when they travel down home, to beat rush hour their bus must have cleared the city by 4.30pm, not returning until 1am.

"I'm in college so recovery is a lot easier for me. In UCD, you have a gym and a pool right on your doorstep. For the guys working it must be very difficult. At the same time, they still have to get the work done while they're training. We have good craic coming up and down (to Mayo) so it's not too bad."

In time a move back down west is something he admits he'll have to weigh up.

"That's something I'll have to consider but I'll have to consider my studies as well and whether I want to advance my education. That's important too, not just football. Look, we don't have to do this. We don't have to play for Mayo if we don't want to but we all want to and if that's what it takes (travel), that's what we'll do."

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