Sunday 21 October 2018

Boston trip made Tribe stronger, says Coen

Johnny Coen of Galway. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Johnny Coen of Galway. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

The last time the Galway hurlers headed for Boston, they did so without a manager.

In the weeks before their trip to face Dublin in an exhibition match in Fenway Park in 2015, then boss Anthony Cunningham stepped down in acrimonious circumstances.

In a statement, he insisted he was forced out of the job by a "kangaroo court" and described the players' stance as "misguided". The Galway hurlers headed for the game in the famous old baseball stadium under a cloud.

By calling for change at the top, the players had effectively backed themselves into a corner where only winning Liam MacCarthy would justify their stance. And when they head off to the extended version of the Fenway AIG Hurling Classic that also includes Dublin, Tipperary and Clare next month, they will do so as All-Ireland champions.

Johnny Coen reckons that trip after the ousting of Cunningham helped bond the panel as a unit.

"When we went over we came back stronger, for sure," said Coen, reflecting on that trip Stateside two years ago. "You come together as a team, we are together four times a week but this is a different setting. You are going over, you are enjoying yourself and playing the game that you love and it brings everyone together.

"It was (tough having no manager) yeah, but we had a good kit-man in Tex Callaghan and as I said to you it wasn't a championship match or anything like that. It was a good chance to express yourself more through getting goals or more hand-passes or being a bit more creative with your play."

Coen insisted no one in the squad enjoyed the process of ousting Cunningham even if they can claim their decision was vindicated by last month's All-Ireland success.

"It's not as if we were looking back saying it was a fantastic decision or anything like that, it was something nobody wanted to go through.

"I would have worked with Anthony since under-21 and he brought us to the All-Ireland and we won it in 2011 against Dublin. He's given a lot to Galway hurling, he was a fantastic player as well so I'd hope there's no hard feelings."

Next season is coming fast but Coen looked to play down Galway's chances of securing back-to-back titles, having finally made the breakthrough.

"Everyone was talking about the huge underage success we had and if we could ever transpire it to senior.

"This year we got over the line and 2018 is going to be a different season and to be honest with you, anyone can win it.

"It's a hugely open campaign every single year and you have the top teams with other teams pushing all the time."

Irish Independent

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