Sunday 19 January 2020

Johnny Coen says Tribesmen must shine brighter

Galway midfielder feels team have fallen short of standards needed to win an All-Ireland

Johnny Coen at the launch of the All-Ireland hurling series on the Aran Islands earlier this month. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Johnny Coen at the launch of the All-Ireland hurling series on the Aran Islands earlier this month. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Galway have fallen short of the standards they have set themselves despite retaining a Leinster title, their midfielder Johnny Coen has admitted.

Ahead of this weekend's first All-Ireland semi-final that pits neighbours Galway and Clare together for the second time at this level, having previously met in 1995, Coen feels the team still has to get the best out of themselves despite the overwhelming nature of their first-half performance against Kilkenny in the replayed Leinster final.

Coen is adamant that the Tribesmen have much more to give and will need to if they are to retain their All-Ireland title.

"We weren't happy with our performance at all the first day in Croke Park," he recalls of their draw with Kilkenny who came from three points down in a dramatic finish.

"We were fierce unhappy with the way we performed. A lot of us were sub-standard. We all know that individually.

"We don't need any managers or anyone from the outside telling us that. We wanted to make sure that we set the agenda straight. We looked at our own performance.

"We looked at the team performance and we said, you know, we weren't going to leave any stone unturned next time."

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Having progressed to a fourth successive All-Ireland semi-final, Coen wants Galway to take their game to another level.

"As players, we feel we have a lot to give. There's an awful lot in our locker in terms of our strength and physicality and all of that.

"It's about bringing out a performance in 70 minutes. If you look back over the last three years when Galway were playing in semi-finals, there has only been a point in it and that point has been scored in injury time.

"If you can't sustain the level of aggression and the level of hurling for the full 70 minutes, you are not really going to progress to the All-Ireland."

While Galway improved for the replay Coen feels that, but for the impetus given to them by Conor Cooney and Jason Flynn off the bench, they could have been caught.

"The first 20 minutes was electric alright but the concession of the goal before half-time and the concession of the two after that, there were stages there in the second half Kilkenny really got the run on us and we were just lucky really that the lads who came on got a few points there and we sealed the victory in the end.

"Our start was very good, 1-8 to 0-1 up, but you'd be sort of disappointed really with the way we weren't able to maintain that standard."

Despite the dramatic nature of their win over the game's standard-bearers of the last two decades, Coen said it wasn't a triumph to celebrate.

"There is no point in celebrating over a Leinster victory. The people of Galway, and I suppose ourselves really, we are looking at bigger and better things," he figures.

After striving so hard to win one All-Ireland medal, Coen always knew they'd keep the foot pressed hard to the floor for in pursuit of a second.

"The drive among us is still as strong as ever, (when) you are growing up as a young fella and you are dreaming about winning an All-Ireland.

"When the dream was achieved, you are saying, 'Why can't you do it again?' Why would you be happy with just the one, you don't know what is around the corner.

"There could be an awful, horrific injury, and anything could happen. So you just have to live for the moment and try to get the most out of life in general."

The cast has remained stable since last year with only Niall Burke pushing out Conor Cooney from the All-Ireland final starting team.

"You see Johnny Glynn there, given his chance, he is really grabbing it and Conor Cooney, an All-Star, unfortunate not to start again.

"But that's the level the team are at, and the level we are performing at," adds Coen.

"If I am not doing my job it's going to someone else that is really going to take my spot. If you are not performing, someone else is waiting for the chance to do it."

Coen has given his backing to the provincial round-robin format while qualifying the need for the game to be spread out a little more to deliver a "level playing field" that wasn't there this year.

"I think, by and large, it has been a huge success and the amount of games that have been played, the general public are delighted with it.

"Even with the standard of matches, you look at particularly there in Munster there were huge games.

"It's a strange one to think that Tipperary and Waterford made an early exit.

"You are playing four matches and if you can't get the results in four matches, you are not going to be there in August or September."

Irish Independent

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