Interview with hurling legend Joe Cooney

Joe Cooney, Galway hurling legend.

Joe Cooney, Galway hurling legend.

At what age did you start playing ? Seven or eight years (primary school ).

Do you remember your first game? The reason I remember one of my first games is because my first cousin, Peter Fahy, was on the opposing team. We played Ballymana National School and I was in fourth class at the time. My uncle, Tom Fahy, was at the match that day.

What is your ideal position and why? Midfield, because one has more freedom to roam backwards or forwards during a game.

Who inspired you? I loved watching Mick Jacob play centre back for Wexford and Jimmy Barry Murphy, who played full forward for Cork. Tom Cashman was very good at wing back for Cork, Johnny Callinan played wing forward for Clare, and Eddie Kehir, who played corner forward for Kilkenny. Brian Whelahan from Offally was also a fantastic player. John Connolly was my local hero who played midfield, centre or full forward. Today, I am inspired by the sheer skill of Joe Canning, Henry Sheflin and TJ Reid from Kilkenny, and Patrick Horgan from Cork.

Did you also aspire to play at the top level? I attended the 1980 All Ireland final when my older brother Jimmy played at corner back for Galway. From that day onward I aspired to play for Galway in Croke Park and wonderer if I would ever actually get there. It's very hard to get to an All-Ireland final and even harder again to win one.

What do you particularly like about your sport? It’s a team sport that involves many players. It also requires a lot of varying personality types, commitment, and a high skill level. The club caters for all standards and every child/person can play for fun or for competition. It's amateur and most people who are involved are there for the love of the game and have a genuine interest in its promotion.

Who/what was the greatest influence/role model? David McGann, who coached us at underage, was my first greatest influence at club level. Br Gerald and Martin Togher in St Raphael's College always encouraged me during my secondary school years. The three Mikes - Conneely, Murray and Mulkerns - who guided us to win two club All-Irelands were very influential in later years. At county level Sean Glynn, Mullagh, and Frank Burke, Killimordaly, ensured my first exposure to the county scene was positive. Cyril Farrell was a big influence from minor right up to senior level.

What has been your biggest challenge to date? Sitting in the stand watching my sons and daughters play - knowing what you would do yourself and wanting them to do the same thing and not being able to do anything about it there and then.

Greatest success/achievement, or one that always remember the most? Winning an All-Ireland with my fellow clubmates and going on to win the two in a row was just surreal. A local success I will always cherish.

Favourite memory? Passing the ball under my arm to Micheal Kenny who stuck the ball in the roof of the net from a very tight angle to help us win the second club All Ireland against Toomevara.

Biggest regret, if any? That we didn’t win more at county level with the team we had from the mid 1980s to the early 1990s.

Fiercest opponent/s? Kilkenny were always difficult to beat at any level. Ger Henderson was a very tough opponent to mark. Tipperary and Cork also proved to be difficult opponents in the 1980s and 1990s.

What are your strengths/weaknesses? Anticipation and vision during a game is one of my strengths. I’m also a very cool person and never really got nervous or too worked up before or during games. I’m of a quiet disposition which can be a strength or a weakness.

If you were not playing your sport, what sport would you want to play? I wouldn’t have minded playing football. I was once selected to be play a challenge match with the county U16 football panel against Donegal. I was either an hour early or an hour late for the bus in Ballinasloe, hence my ambition was short lived!

What do you do to relax? Walking, watching TV (when I get a chance ), and relaxing at home with the family.

Favourite sports person? Usain Bolt of Jamacia; Jonah Lomou, New Zealand; Brian O’ Driscoll and Paul O'Connell, Ireland.

Best/worst aspect of lockdown? Getting more family time was definitely the best aspect of lockdown. Being unable to actually visit my mother and the fear of catching or inadvertently spreading the virus is still quite scary. Who would ever think that one would require a ticket to go to Mass and not be freely able to go to a club match. Keep safe everybody.


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