BY TOM LYONS
LIBBY Coppinger is the last of a dying breed.
In 2017, the St Colum’s woman won an All-Ireland senior camogie medal with Cork and a national league ladies’ football medal, the only dual player after Rena Buckley opting out of football.
At the Carbery GAA Awards in the Westlodge Hotel in Bantry last Friday, she received the September award along with Orla Cronin, in honour of the All-Ireland win.
She was really enjoying the occasion with family and friends from Kealkil and Bantry but was fully conscious of the fact that she would have to be up early the following morning to make the long trip to Offaly for a camogie league game. She was happy to share her story.
‘I actually started my football career earlier than camogie,’ she said, ‘as we had a girls’ football team but no camogie. I played hurling for a year with the boys before my Mam and Uncle Tony started up the camogie club in 2009.
‘Later I had to transfer to Bantry for my football, where we won the county junior and intermediate, and combined with Clonakilty to play camogie because we just didn’t have the numbers in Kealkil.’
Coppinger’s dual role with Cork started at a young age, when she was just a minor.
‘My last year as a minor, I played on both Cork teams,’ she said, ‘and that was the beginning of my dual role, there was no preference, I love playing both. They’re very different games and football would probably come more naturally to me.
‘You have to work very hard at the camogie, not that you don’t work hard at football too. I was with the camogie intermediate team in 2016 and with the Cork football U21 team at the same time. The senior footballers were the first to come knocking that season.’
‘The choice of picking one over the other has never arisen,’ she said.
‘I’ve had great success in both codes and that definitely helped. Both managers, understandably, are selfish about their players but they’re great in making sure I’m well looked after.
‘They might fight for me when they need me and sure that’s a good thing for me.’
Of course, playing both games at the top level takes a ferocious commitment and it’s understandable from Coppinger’s hectic schedule while few players now go for both.
‘I’m in college at the moment, in third year in UCC but come home every weekend,’ she said.
‘At the moment there are so many matches and stuff, so it’s games more than training right now. We have football on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday and camogie on Tuesday and Thursday and kind of Sunday as well. There’s college games on top of that. We lost the Ashbourne Cup final on Wednesday night last, heartbreaking but we’ll keep trying.
‘Last summer I was six nights a week on the pitch. Now I wouldn’t be doing full sessions every time and with matches I’d be looking after myself. I love matches, Training is okay but it’s the matches that give me the hunger, keep me fresh. I’ve never actually sat down to figure out how many matches I play in a season or how many training sessions, but it’s a lot. But it’s the matches you want to be playing.’
Regular travel from Kealkil to Cork and back brings it challenges. ‘It’s tough going alright,’ said Coppinger.
‘It’s more the thought of the journey than the actual journey itself. Once you’re in the car it’s okay. You take it all in your stride. Once you hit the top of Cousane on the way back, you’re almost home and it’s a great feeling.
‘In reality, I probably won’t be able to keep it going for too long. I don’t know what will happen when I finish college or what commitments I will have then. I would like to keep it all going. Being in college in Cork definitely helps but these last few weeks even have been hectic with college games, training, league matches. I’ll try to keep it going as long as I can.’