We asked Libby Coppinger’s team-mates – Fiona Keating, Emma Spillane, Clara Crowley and Aisling Murnane – to tell us more about the St Colum’s All-Star
BY MATTHEW HURLEY
THE past year has been the best of Libby Coppinger’s GAA career.
Not only did the dual star enjoy a superb season in the Rebels’ jersey for both the camogie and football teams, but she was also rewarded with her first Camogie All-Star award.
The St Colum’s ace has made her mark on all the teams she has lined out with. Whether it’s at county level with Cork, at divisional level with West Cork football or Carbery camogie, or her own club, Coppinger has left an impression.
Courcey Rovers’ Fiona Keating has played with Libby for years, currently with Cork camogie, but they also won a Cork senior football title together with West Cork.
‘I started playing with Libby for a year or two with West Cork, and then moved on to the Cork stages. She’s always someone who took you under her wing,’ Keating explained.
‘I was nervous going into the Cork set-up and she was always the one where you could go to if you needed anything or if you needed questions answered. For Cork, when you had to go into pairs, you’d be a bit nervous and then Libby would say, “Fiona, come on away, I’ll go with you”. Even now as I move into the middle age category on the team, I can still see her looking after the younger ones as well as everyone else.’
Coppinger was once a young gun in the Rebels’ set-up, but has developed into a leader. Her presence has been felt across Matthew Twomey’s team.
‘I think she has come out of herself a bit more. Even for us this year in the full-back line, she took more of a leadership role. For the likes of Meabh Murphy coming onto the team this year, Libby showed her the ropes. She knows what it’s like coming new into the team,’ Keating explained.
Cork stars Coppinger and Meabh Cahalane are the standard bearers for dual players all over the country. To compete and excel at the highest level in two codes is quite remarkable, especially when you consider the regular trek the West Cork woman makes from St Colum’s, and home in Kealkill.
‘She’s travelling up and down to training. People feel bad for committing to one, never mind two sports. She’s also trying to balance work, social and family life. It really shows what she puts into it,’ Keating said.
‘Libby is one of the most talented, hard-working people I’ve ever played with,’ said Libby’s current Cork football teammate Emma Spillane.
‘The commitment she gives to both codes, driving up and down to Cork five or six times a week. I don’t think she gets the credit she deserves sometimes. You’d never hear her complaining. She’s a very positive person.’
The list of qualities of the St Colum’s dual star is extensive. Not just her camogie or footballing ability but her communication too.
‘She wouldn’t be the loudest of the bunch but when she’s on the field, she has such an impact. She’s a team player, she gets on with everyone,’ Spillane added.
‘Her positivity is a great asset and it brings a lot to the group. When we're running in training, the girls will be complaining but Libby will say “it’s only a few runs”.’
Spillane, who played alongside Coppinger at club level when the latter played for Bantry Blues, praised the decision to award her an All-Star.
‘You could say she was hard-done-by in the years where she was nominated. Nobody deserves it more than Libby. I’m delighted she has been honoured because the dedication she’s given to both sports is unbelievable. For her family and her club, it’s a great achievement for her,’ Spillane said.
It’s not just the Cork stars who believe Coppinger is an inspiration. Just ask her Carbery camogie midfield partner from 2021, Clara Crowley.
‘I have played with and against Libby at club level, and she is one of the most genuine camogie players I have come across. She has the skill and pace to get the ball and be gone up the pitch before you would blink,’ Crowley explained.
‘Libby has a major presence on the pitch. She has a never-give-up attitude and will always have a positive line to add to any pre-match team talk,’ Ballinascarthy club player Crowley explained.
While winning a match is important for Coppinger, a loss isn’t the end of the world.
‘The minute the whistle is blown, win or lose, Libby will have a smile on her face and will always find a positive element of the game to share with us,’ Crowley added.
‘There is no doubt Libby is one of the most talented camogie players of our generation, and she has always given her all to the Carbery team, allowing us fellow West Cork girls to get a chance to play senior camogie at a competitive level.’
The All-Star’s influence on her beloved St Colum’s has the largest impact.
‘She’s putting Colum’s on the map a bit more and West Cork too,’ Colum’s camogie player Aisling Murnane acknowledged.
‘Camogie wouldn’t be as big down here, so it’s great to have that coming down here. We’re all delighted for her.’
Her influence amongst the players is really felt in her local club.
‘She’s a great team player. She’s one of the girls on the pitch that is close by to give you a hand if you’re in trouble.
‘When she isn’t able to play with us, she’ll come down to games. She’s there talking to the girls before the game, at half time, and after the game. When she’s at training herself, she’d be giving us drills and things to do. She learns a lot of skills and brings it down to us,’ Murnane said.
Coppinger is not only a brilliant player but also great company to be around.
‘Whenever there’s a night out, Libby will be one of the first people there!’ Emma Spilllane laughed.
‘She’s always up for the craic after a match, to go out or whatever we’re doing. As much dedication as she gives, she’ll always go out, which is well deserved if you’re committing that much of your life to the sport.’
‘As long as I’ve known Libby, she always seems to be in great form. She’s always involved in everything,’ Fiona Keating added.
She’s the same in her club.
‘She’s a great laugh. She would talk to anyone about GAA or even just catch-up with the girls in training before or after. She would be messing in the dressing room whether it’s laughing over something or joking around the place. She’s great fun,’ said Aisling Murnane.
A role model on and off the pitch. And now a deserving All-Star, too.