UCD GAA’s Stephen Coen reflects on Sigerson Cup campaign as UCD crash out at the hands of eventual winners DCU

Andrew Dempsey speaks to UCD GAA football captain Stephen Coen after they exited the Sigerson Cup at the hands of eventual winners DCU at the semi-final stage

For the second year on the spin, UCD GAA exited the Sigerson Cup at the semi-finals stage. And while it is hard to falter at the last four stage two years in a row – an unfancied UCD can be proud of their 2019/20 showing.

A rigorous schedule eventually took its toll on a newly emerging UCD side – with two of their three games going the full distance against both Ulster University and St Mary’s, Limerick.

“I suppose this year compared to other years, there wasn’t a whole lot expected of us,” UCD GAA Sigerson Cup captain and Mayo senior footballer Stephen Coen tole The University Observer.

“In the first round we beat one of the overwhelming favourites to win the competition so that was great and in the second round we beat St Mary’s who we had never managed to beat in my time here previously so that was another nice win after extra-time as well.

“Those games ended up taking their toll – it took a lot out of the bodies. Three days after we played the Mary’s game, we played DCU which is always a big rivalry.

“We didn’t play well, and on the night DCU were better than us in fairness. It was a good effort for the competition given what was expected of us, but we were disappointed to bow out in the way we did.”

24-year-old Coen added; “It’s challenging because you have to manage your loads (at this time of year). You need to peak for one competition and get ready for the start of another (with inter-county) where you probably won’t peak until the summer-time.

“I’m very fortunate with Mayo that we have a Strength & Conditioning guy who takes care of everything between college and county.

“But some lads may not be that fortunate,” he says. “Some counties only care about the county and don’t care about the colleges at all which can be very challenging at times. To be honest what fixes it is just common sense and looking after the player.

“I’ve seen some lads flogged – but it depends where your county is at. Your county may be looking at promotion in the league which is an early start to the season – so they want you peaking early.

“Others may be comfortable in the league and come the Championship they want to be ready so they may be a bit more lenient with players.

“It’s very much circumstantial on where you’re from and stuff – I’ve seen lads flogged and all, but I suppose that’s how it is really.”

The latest instalment of the Sigerson took place in light of the newly introduced mark rule – one that has been labelled as ‘farcical’ according to a number of past icons of the sport. 

“It’s more advantageous for the forward,” Coen told the Observer. “If you’re a defender you may not be too keen on it. It probably slows the game down a small bit, but I suppose you want to see more scores in the game.

“Maybe more from play than from a mark which is a set-piece – we can say. I don’t know, there’s a lot of mixed opinions about it at the minute. As a defender it’s far more of a challenge to keep your man scoreless – but as you say – it does slow the game down a bit.”

But on the whole – the Animal Science Student has spent the last six years of his life playing with UCD on the Sigerson stage – where he has enjoyed every minute of his spell at the club.

“Yea (I’ve been here) for six brilliant years. We won a freshers in first year which was great, and the following year we won the Sigerson and then two years after that we won it again.

“Each of them were very special I suppose. When we won it the second time, we won it with all of the freshers I was with which was class.

“But obviously, the first time, we hadn’t won it in 20 years and Dave Billings (RIP) had just passed away a year or so before. That one was a raw, emotional one for all of us involved.”

Alongside his special memories with the club – he has also been able to share dressing rooms with a litany of elite-level players who he would take on as an opponent in the inter-county game. 

“(And) what’s also important is that you get to learn off lads who have played at a similar level, and an even higher level.

“The best thing about UCD is that everyone who plays has brilliant attitudes. Lads are willing to share their ideas and go through the mill with each other.

“That gives everyone confidence when you have guys who have done it at the top level so it’s a brilliant environment to be involved in.

“It (the Sigerson) has been unbelievable. UCD GAA as a whole has been a massive part of my life, and it’s a club I’m very proud to be a part of.

“You start off in college after coming from a small village in Mayo, with only a couple of hundred people and then you go to a massive university with over 30,00 students.  

“You’re lost but after two weeks you start playing football with UCD and that’s where all my friends from college have come from.

“The Sigerson as a whole is an unbelievable tournament. It’s been brilliant, I’ve enjoyed every minute of it, and I have made friends for life from it. I couldn’t speak highly enough of it and the UCD GAA club as a whole.”