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LAST WORD: St Colum’s pull out all the stops for club’s first All-Star winner Libby Coppinger

February 1st, 2023 2:30 PM

By Kieran McCarthy

LAST WORD: St Colum’s pull out all the stops for club’s first All-Star winner Libby Coppinger Image
Camogie All-Star Libby Coppinger was given a hero's welcome home to St Colum's GAA Club eaerlier this month. (Photo: Andy Gibson)

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THE day before the red carpet was rolled out for All-Star Libby Coppinger’s homecoming at St Colum’s GAA, her uncle Tony Coppinger reckoned there were 20 people at the clubhouse hall, hanging flags and banners, blowing balloons and doing whatever jobs needed to be done. 

The local community pulled together to celebrate the achievements of one of their own: St Colum’s first-ever All-Star, Libby Coppinger.

‘There are not a lot of All-Stars in West Cork so when you have one in your own club, it’s a real bonus and it really does need to be celebrated,’ explains Tony, who was involved in the setting up of Colum’s camogie club in 2009.

He didn’t know then that his niece Libby would develop into one of the top players in the country, and now a Camogie All-Star. Like everyone involved in St Colum’s he’s proud of Libby and how she has put her home club on that map. 

This homecoming was a chance for St Colum’s to show Libby the impact she has made on young and old.

When the Cork defender was named on the 2022 Camogie All-Star team at the awards ceremony on the last Saturday of November, she wasn’t there to pick up her award. Instead, she was on a two-day safari in the Masai Mara National Reserve, on the final leg of the eight-day Plant the Planet Games trip to Kenya. 

Libby was keeping tabs on the awards and was on the phone to her mom Maureen, who was in Croke Park with Libby’s sister Maggie and aunt Breda. The Coppingers were there – and made noise when Libby won her first All-Star award. Maggie accepted the trophy on her behalf, and it was the following Monday night before Libby got to hold it for herself; it was sitting on the kitchen table at home in Kealkill, waiting for her.

Libby's grandmother Breda Coppinger makes a presentation to Libby at her homecoming.


Before she landed home that night Libby stopped at her grandmother Breda’s home – only a half mile from St Colum’s pitch – for a catch-up. That’s a ritual at this stage for the Coppinger clan, to call to Breda after training for a cup of tea and a chat. That connection to home and family is strong. It was fitting, so, that Breda – one of the founding members of the committee of the hall, built in the mid-1970s – had a part to play in Libby’s homecoming, making a presentation to her granddaughter. This was a special day for the Coppingers and St Colum’s.

‘It was a fabulous occasion,’ Tony says. 

This was a proper celebration. A fire engine from Bantry Fire Brigade and a local Garda squad car provided an escort for the guest of honour, with piper Donal Kelleher leading the way. Huge numbers from St Colum’s lined both sides of the road, waving black and orange flags as they welcomed local hero Libby back to her club. Inside, she received gifts from St Colum’s and Carbery Camogie, as the division’s newest All-Star was feted in style. 

What was noticeable was the number of young girls and boys in the crowd – and being a part of Libby’s homecoming will make an impression.

Back in 2009 after the camogie club in St Colum’s was set up, Cork GAA great Rena Buckley (who went on to win an astonishing 18 All-Ireland senior medals) and some of her Cork team-mates visited the club. Tony Coppinger has photos of a young Libby and her friends with Rena.

‘You have to think that seeing and meeting Rena Buckley inspired Libby, like she is inspiring kids now. It’s about moving the torch on and inspiring the next generation,’ Tony explains. ‘Libby gave a speech in the hall at the homecoming that we were all blown away by, and the kids really bought into it. She spoke about the journey she’s been on, training with boys, her coaches up along, and how it all starts at home. The young girls and boys were in awe.

‘You have the likes of Orla Cronin in Enniskeane, Emma Spillane in Bantry, these players really are to be looked up to. The hope is they can inspire others to follow.’

All-Star Libby Coppinger pictured with St Colum's ladies club committee members outside the clubhouse at her homecoming.


Libby is a role model for young kids in West Cork. She’s based in Kealkill, but from there has developed into a dual star for Cork camogie and football teams. She is showing what is possible, creating a path from West Cork to the top level. That’s what trailblazers do: they prepare the way for others to follow. It doesn’t necessarily mean that every player will line out for Cork, but Libby’s rise from a junior club in Carbery to All-Ireland finals in Croke Park shows what is possible. It’s replicated at other levels – take Aoife Sheehan from Barleycove who has played with St Colum’s camogie for years.

‘Wherever you are living in the country you can do these things, Libby is the proof of that,’ Tony says.

‘Look at Aoife Sheehan. She is living 45 minutes from our pitch but has given incredible commitment to the club. I could safely say she is the most south-westerly player in the country that plays camogie.’

Libby’s St Colum’s team-mate Aisling Murnane previously told this paper that ‘she’s putting Colum’s on the map’. And her club and community showed how much they care with the homecoming fit for an All-Star.

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