Saturday 17 November 2018

'I just don't see a future for me in Leinster' - Ulster star John Cooney rules out a return to his home province

13 April 2018; John Cooney of Ulster is tackled by Hanno Dirksen of Ospreys during the Guinness PRO14 Round 20 match between Ulster and Ospreys at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
13 April 2018; John Cooney of Ulster is tackled by Hanno Dirksen of Ospreys during the Guinness PRO14 Round 20 match between Ulster and Ospreys at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Ulster scrum-half John Cooney has ruled out a return to Leinster, saying that he 'can't see a future' for himself at his home province.

Cooney left Leinster to play for Connacht in 2014 after struggling to break into the first team in an era where he was fighting with Ireland internationals Eoin Reddan and Isaac Boss for game time.

He played for Connacht for three seasons but again found himself behind an Ireland squad regular in Kieran Marmion, before Cooney signed with Ulster in the summer of 2017 as a replacement for departing Springbok Ruan Pienaar.

A breakout season followed as although Ulster struggled for form, Cooney was sensational and scooped the club's Player of the Year prize - as well as earning an Ireland call-up for the summer tour of Australia.

Many Leinster fans would now like to see Cooney back at the province to compete with Luke McGrath for the starting spot, but after he wasn't given his chance first time around, the former Gonzaga College pupil is happy to stay loyal to the team that showed faith in him.

Speaking on The Left Wing to Luke Fitzgerald and Will Slattery, Cooney explained why he can't foresee himself pulling on a Leinster jersey again.

"Personally, I really like it here and I can't see myself even thinking about that option anymore," Cooney said of a move home.

"I like where I am here and I just don't see a future for me in Leinster. It's probably that chip on my shoulder, it's probably how I'm going here. I think Ulster is a club for me. I've really bought into their values and I see myself as an Ulsterman. Obviously I'm Dublin-born but now this is the club for me.

"I have a lot of respect for Leinster and some of my best friends are there like Noel Reid. I always want him to do well. Personally, for me, I'm happy here. I enjoy playing Leinster and I love Connacht, but I enjoy playing them as well."

Cooney also admitted that he uses the setbacks he has had in his career to motivate himself today, adding that he was disappointed that former Leinster boss Matt O'Connor was sacked as Leicester head coach before Ulster had a chance to play them in this season's Champions Cup. Cooney left Leinster after O'Connor's first season in charge, and would have enjoyed the opportunity of showing him what he missed out on.

"It's something that motivates me every day and I openly do like to say that I have one [a chip on his shoulder]," he said.

"I try to use the benefits and the positives of it. We were meant to have Leicester in the Champions Cup but sadly Matt O'Connor isn't the coach anymore. I was looking forward to playing them because he was the coach of Leinster so it is something that definitely motivates me."

Subscribe to The Left Wing, Independent.ie's Rugby podcast in association with Laya Healthcare, with Luke Fitzgerald and Will Slattery for the best discussion and analysis each week. From in depth interviews with some of Irish rugby's biggest stars to unmatched insights into the provinces and the national team, The Left Wing has all your rugby needs covered.

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