NEXT MONTH IS the main attraction in Croke Park but today there is the warm-up act in Semple Stadium.
Collisions between Galway and Kilkenny on the hurling front are set to command plenty interest in the coming weeks with this evening’s Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland U21HC semi-final in Thurles the first item on the agenda. Amongst the plethora of senior panelists on the Galway side is Johnny Coen, wing-back for the U21′s and corner-back for the senior side.
The Loughrea player has been in sterling form in the Tribesmen rearguard this summer yet his hurling origins are further up the field and his versatility can be measured in the fact that he sparkled in attack for his club as they contested the 2010 Galway senior hurling final and for UL in the Fitzgibbon Cup this year.
“When I was younger, I was always in the forwards,” Coen told TheScore.ie. “But when I was minor with Galway, Mattie Murphy put me back corner-back. Look all I want to do is play hurling and get on the team. I just wanted to get game time and had no problem trying it.”
Coen was a senior panelist under John McIntyre with Galway last year yet it is this year that he has established himself under Anthony Cunningham’s management.
“I was happy to get games in the league last year and learn my trade. But it’s great to get a run of games this year at senior. Anthony (Cunningham) and the lads really have good faith in us. Everyone is there on merit and if you had something to contribute to the panel, they got you involved.
“They were looking at their three year plan and I was just happy to be part of that plan. These guys do stand by you and it’s great to have confidence in the management over us. All three of them are very approachable guys, the backs do a lot of work with Tom (Helebert) and the forwards with Mattie (Kenny).”
It’s exciting times for Galway hurling and Coen, who starts teaching in St Brigid’s Vocational School in Loughrea next Monday, is relishing the build-up in the town in the east of the county with himself and club mate Paul Hoban inundated with best wishes from the locals.
Yet before that senior showpiece he is concentrating on today’s U21 game. The grade has provided mixed fortunes in recent years with the shattering low of their 2010 final hammering against Tipperary and their wonderful 2011 final victory against Dublin.
“I was involved in 2010 and it wasn’t a great experience for us,” says Coen. “Tipperary had won the senior the week before and there was a huge majority of Tipperary fans in the crowd. They really blew us off the park. But it was a big motivation for us last year as we learned a lot.
“We got the preparation right last year for a Saturday evening throw-in and playing under floodlights. It did help us against Dublin and hopefully we can drive on now.”