Sunday 13 October 2019

Cooney refuses to be blown off course as Ulster look to finish the job

John Cooney of Ulster. Photo: Sportsfile
John Cooney of Ulster. Photo: Sportsfile

Michael Sadlier

He had thought the Galway Sportsground could hardly be trumped for difficulty when it came to trying to steer a ball between the posts in swirling winds and outright gales, but, recently, John Cooney has had to revise that opinion.

Last Friday night at Parc y Scarlets, the 28-year-old found himself thrown by place-kicking conditions that were largely beyond what he had previously experienced.

Even though he provided try assists at the Scarlets for Will Addison and Marcell Coetzee - the latter's close-range effort bringing up the bonus point - Cooney only kicked two shots from six attempts and while watching other efforts sail wide, one did hit the post, he could only see the humour in it.

Of course, it was fine to chuckle especially as Ulster went on to win - though only just - which has put them in a strong position halfway through in Pool Four though Dan McFarland's second-placed squad must repeat the dose tomorrow when Scarlets come to the Kingspan with only pride to play for.

"I've played long enough in Galway (with Connacht), I played three years in that sort of weather," says Cooney. "So it's something I'd like to think I'm quite good at.

"The first one I couldn't have guessed that it was going to go 10 metres (wide) while the last kick I was hoping the wind would take it but it just didn't. Sometimes you've just got to laugh as you can't do much about it."

Inaccuracy Still, the inaccuracy hurt and for a player who prides himself on kicking goals, he will want to make amends tomorrow evening.

"I do realise that sometimes it (winning or losing) could come down to that one point," says Cooney, who did land the last-gasp penalty to beat the Scarlets in September's PRO14 opener in Belfast. "There have been games when I've got those kicks and it's come to a point that we've just about won, but last weekend it (the place-kicking) just didn't happen."

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The four-times-capped Ireland scrum-half is proud of how the team grafted to earn their first ever European victory at the Scarlets just two weeks after getting turned over in West Wales in the PRO14.

"As long as we keep performing like that and working hard for each other I think we'll be good in all these games," adds the Dubliner.

The mantra for this week is already clear. Ulster must push on and finish the job. Ideally they would like more territory and possession, but just another victory will do.

"It makes a big difference when we're on the front foot and playing well," Cooney said. "We were pretty clinical when we got into their half (last week)."

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