Libby Coppinger was busier than most these past 12 months. GER McCARTHY spoke to the All-Ireland winner about dual commitments, winning another O’Duffy Cup and the West Cork ladies’ increased profile
INTER-COUNTY dual star Libby Coppinger experienced a host of highs and lows that few 22-year-old GAA players in her position would have been able for.
Yet, after 12 months the fourth year Public Health UCC student is unlikely to ever forget, Coppinger enters the New Year with a smile on her face and another All-Ireland medal in her back pocket.
The St Colum’s and West Cork star ignored intense media scrutiny of college and inter-county commitment issues to become one of 37 female inter-county players to receive a third-level scholarship from the Women’s Gaelic Players Association.
Add in a Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star of the month award and the Coomhola, Bantry, native has more reasons to look back on 2018 in a positive rather than negative light.
March: Dual trouble.
A public spat between Coppinger’s Cork senior camogie and UCC women’s football managers grabbed plenty of unwanted media attention. UCC’s involvement in the third-level O’Connor Cup occurred on the same date as Cork camogie’s Division 1 semi-final, affecting three individuals. Coppinger chose to line out for her college while Meabh Cahalane and Hannah Looney opted for Cork.
Eight months on and Coppinger offered mature perspective on the issue: ‘There are players all over the country, not just in Cork, faced with similar dual football and camogie commitments all the time now.
‘Better planning is needed and better communication between the organisations involved. I am only a small part of it as the managers and players involved in these things are impacted the most, to be honest.
‘People can focus on me all they want but it affects a lot of other people too. No one wants to be choosing one sport over the other but luckily, when it was all going on, I had my family for support and they gave me a good insight in to what I should do.”
June: Crisis averted.
Coppinger and Looney were back in the news during the early part of the summer when Cork’s footballers and camogie teams were each scheduled to play on Saturday, June 23rd. Thankfully, common sense prevailed and the Camogie Association moved Cork’s clash with Dublin to the following day.
‘The good thing about that situation is that something positive happened to avoid a fixture conflict,’ the 22-year-old St Colum’s player noted.
‘In the past, the whole attitude would have been the girls will just have to put up with it and try to work around it. Luckily, common sense prevailed and luckily, it is just not possible for us (players) to be asked to play twice in the one day.
‘I think the GAA is trying to come up with a way to make sure that camogie is played one weekend and football on the other. It makes sense to have a weekend dedicated to each sport.’
September: Another All-Ireland.
An All-Ireland winner in 2017 under Paudie Murray’s stewardship, Coppinger returned to Croke Park for another showdown with Kilkenny this past September. Retaining their Liberty Insurance All-Ireland senior camogie title was always going to be difficult and unsurprisingly, Kilkenny pushed Coppinger and her team mates to the absolute limit.
It took a late Orla Cotter free to bring the O’Duffy Cup back to Leeside for the second year running.
‘Obviously, it was a feeling of pure happiness at the final whistle but relief as well,’ Coppinger remembered.
‘The two All-Ireland finals I’ve been involved in have been so close. The Cork camogie team likes to make hard work of it when it comes to winning All-Irelands alright! It was brilliant to win it again especially considering the great battles we have had with Kilkenny over the last two years.
‘We had a bit of luck and things just went right for us on the day. We were unlucky in the All-Ireland football and that was disappointing. My father wouldn’t let me feel down for too long about that though as he kept saying “sure look, wouldn’t be giving out if you were told that you’d have an All-Ireland medal in your back pocket at the end of the year!”
‘When it comes to All-Irelands, it is a case of taking it all in and enjoying those games as much as you possibly can.’
October: So near and yet so far.
Fresh from winning another All-Ireland medal, Coppinger turned her attentions to helping the West Cork ladies football squad reach a first ever Cork senior final. But standing in the Carbery side’s way of making history was Mourneabbey.
A pulsating county final ended in a draw when Rosscarbery’s Sarah Hayes kicked over a 69th minute injury-time equaliser. Mourneabbey proved too strong in the replay and the defending champions ran out convincing winners in front of another bumper attendance at Cloughduv.
‘It is great that West Cork takes ladies football so seriously,’ she said.
‘We (West Cork) have established ourselves as one of the key competitors in ladies’ football within the county. Mourneabbey and St Val’s have been the top two for so long so it was important West Cork got to a county final this year.
‘That showed how many great players are in West Cork and that we can play as a team. Brian (McCarthy), Dinny (Enright) and Anne (O’Grady) have been incredible and kept it going for the last three years. It is a pity we couldn’t get over the line in the end (for them) because they have put so much great work into ladies’ football.
‘You don’t notice the fact so many people are coming to the senior ladies’ championship games until you have a chance to reflect on the games after they are finished. It is great to see so much coverage in The Southern Star too and that definitely helps increase people’s interest in ladies’ GAA.’