Sunday 22 April 2018

Cooney hoping for early birthday present

Connacht's John Cooney is tackled by Ulster's Jared Payne (Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile)
Connacht's John Cooney is tackled by Ulster's Jared Payne (Photo: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile)

John Fallon

Connacht scrum-half John Cooney is hoping for an early birthday present in Italy on Friday night when a point will be enough to send Pat Lam's men into the Pro12 semi-finals for the first time.

Cooney, who will be 26 on Sunday, is making up for lost time having spent three-and-a-half months on the sidelines following a shoulder injury picked up in the 33-19 win over Treviso back in November. Now he heads to Treviso this Friday hoping to play his part in guiding Connacht closer to Pro12 glory, having made his comeback in the games against Ulster and Munster.

"I was a little bit rusty when I first came back, but you just have keep doing the basics again and trying to fit into the team," Cooney said.

"That's one thing Pat was pushing me to do, was fit back into the team not trying to come back and stand out or anything like that, just do your roles and keep doing your extras, passing and kicking, specialist plays.

"Once I started doing that I found it a little bit easier."

He's back to full fitness and raring to go for the closing games of Connacht's best ever season.

"I got keyhole surgery on my shoulder. Both shoulders are done so they are like rocks now," said the Scottish-born scrum-half who has played for the Irish U-20s and Emerging Ireland.

He said they have not got carried away with any of the big wins this season and they didn't dwell too long on the historic win over Munster last Saturday week, the first time ever that they completed a double over an Irish province.

"Pretty quickly to be honest," he said, when asked how they put the Munster win to bed.

"We knew obviously it was a huge win. We were just looking forward to that next Treviso game.

"That is one of the things that we have improved on this year, we are just looking at the next game. We are not looking too far ahead.

"We enjoyed it obviously that evening, but we parked it by the team meeting on Monday."

He knows they face a tricky test away to a Treviso side playing their final home match of the season and are just three points adrift of Zebre in the battle for the Italian spot in the Champions Cup.

"But they are a hard team to play away. I have played there several times and it's never an easy fixture. We are going over there hoping to get the win and five points," Cooney added.

"They haven't been performing as well as they would have liked in the last few weeks but we will be taking nothing for granted."

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