Cork dual star Libby Coppinger is thankful the latest fixture clash was solved, allowing her give all her attention to camogie this week ahead of Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final. She spoke to KIERAN McCARTHY
LIBBY Coppinger is thankful that all her focus is on camogie this week.
Up to last Friday afternoon, it wasn’t.
Yet again, the Cork dual star – along with team-mate Hannah Looney – was trapped in the middle of a fixture clash between camogie and ladies football.
It’s the price of success, she says, but not one she wants to revisit again. But we’ve been here before. Too many times, she admits.
Both the Cork camogie and football teams are into their respective All-Ireland semi-finals, but both were scheduled for the same day, this Saturday, August 18th.
Coppinger and Looney were in limbo.
Players and management appealed to the powers-that-be to make sure common sense won. Eventually, it did. The LGFA moved the Cork v Donegal football semi-final to August 25th, freeing up Coppinger and Looney to concentrate on the Rebels’ camogie semi-final against Tipperary this Saturday in Thurles.
Relief. Pure relief.
‘It’s brilliant that they found a resolution, and it helped that it was cleared up last week so I could have a clear head going into this week,’ Coppinger says.
‘We have to thank the management, the LGFA, Donegal, everyone who worked to make this possible and who were accommodating.
‘I know it was only two people affected but we would have been devastated if this wasn’t sorted and a decision had to be made.’
Before the fixture clash was solved, it was inching closer to the scenario that both Coppinger and Looney were dreading.
‘I hadn’t got to the stage where I was starting to think about making the decision but it was fairly close at the same time,’ she says.
‘If it did get to that stage we would have left it up to Paudie (Murray, camogie manager) and Ephie (Fitzgerald, football manager) anyway to decide between themselves to see which game we were needed at the most.
‘They were always hopeful that a resolution would be found and the game would be changed.’
Coppinger would love to believe that a similar clash between camogie and football won’t happen again. But she’s been here before. It’s wishful thinking.
These fixture clashes happen far too often for Coppinger’s liking. Last season the footballers released her to let her play in an All-Ireland camogie semi-final against Galway that was on the same day as a football quarter-final, also against Galway.
It’s not just Cork players affected either – Tipperary’s Orla O’Dwyer is another to get caught in the middle this season.
‘We keep saying that hopefully these clashes won’t happen but we still find ourselves in these situations,’ Coppinger points out.
‘Of course it’s not ideal but they are trying, to be fair. Earlier in the year we had the Munster football final and a group camogie game clashing on the same day, and it was a simple solution where the camogie game went to the Sunday and the football stayed on the Saturday.
‘They do put a lot of effort into making sure it doesn’t happen but it still happens a lot. I think the group games and the earlier All-Ireland finals had a bit to do with the clash this year as well. We had more group games with the football and the football final is also a week earlier this year too so we were a bit more under pressure to get games played.’
So, relief was the overriding emotion on Friday when news landed that the football semi-final has been pushed back a week, allowing Coppinger and Looney to turn all their attention on camogie this week.
Switching between the two codes has it challenges, but the West Cork woman takes it in her stride. Player of the match in the footballers’ quarter-final rout against Westmeath on bank holiday Monday, now it’s all about toppling Tipp in Thurles and getting back into another All-Ireland final.
‘You have to keep your head focussed on the match ahead of you,’ she explains.
‘You can’t think about tomorrow, you have to play the game in front of you, and the management is very good in helping us and they also organise that we can attend both trainings. It definitely helps that we are with both teams all the time.
‘It’s never been too difficult. Once you are in the camogie dressing-room with the girls you don’t think about football, and vice-versa when I’m in the football dressing-room.’
It’s camogie all the way up until Saturday, as Coppinger targets another All-Ireland final appearance.
She got the taste of it last year when Cork won, and she wants it again. They’ll be favourites against a Tipp team that they’ve beaten three times already this season – but they won’t be complacent.
‘Tipp are always a tough team, you can never write them off. We have played them a few times – in the league, the Munster final and in our group – and it was a fierce battle every time to get over the line. It’s going to be the same on Saturday,’ Coppinger said.
Cork won 3-15 to 0-13 in the league, 0-19 to 0-6 in the Munster final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, and 1-27 to 1-12 when they met in the group stage of the championship. Each win has been commanding so it’s easy to see why Paudie Murray’s side will be short odds on Saturday.
There’s nothing Cork can do about that, Coppinger says. Instead they’re focussing on controlling the controllables.
‘That was the main aim this year – to bring it up a level,’ she said.
‘I think we have a stronger panel this year compared to last season when we won the All-Ireland. The management has been experimenting a lot and we have had a lot of different teams starting in our games. Only one or two have started all the matches and that’s great for our strength in depth and for competition for places.
‘A different team will finish the game compared to what started the game because you want to kick on in those last 20 minutes.’
UCC student Coppinger will be back in with the footballers on Sunday morning. By then, she hopes to have an All-Ireland camogie final to look forward to. But her focus next week will be on football only. The life of a dual player. There’s not much she would change, she says, apart from avoiding those fixture clashes. At least this one was dodged in time.