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27th Jun 2018

Credit due to John Cooney for honest words on playing 4 minutes during Australia tour

Patrick McCarry

“I’ll either be in Australia or on a beach in Thailand.”

That was John Cooney’s take, back in May, on the hot-topic of him possibly making Ireland’s squad for the Australia tour.

Cooney had just come off another impressive season of provincial rugby – winning a slew of personal accolades at Ulster Rugby – and there was serious talk of Conor Murray being rested up for at least one game, Down Under.

The former Leinster and Connacht scrum-half was deservedly included in Joe Schmidt’s summer squad but he did not play as much as he would of wanted. In fact, Cooney got four minutes at the tail-end of the Second Test triumph in Melbourne.

Cooney joined The Hard Yards from an airport in Bangkok, Thailand [he got there eventually!] on his way to Koh Samui and spoke very honestly [from 1:30 below] on Ireland’s series win, his lack of decent game-time and his hopes for next season.

Murray started all three Tests – in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney – and his game-time was as follows, 78, 76 and 81. Despite edging Cooney out in terms of replacement roles [2-1], Marmion ended up playing less time [two minutes]. Cooney commented:

“I was obviously disappointed that I didn’t get on and play as long as I’d have liked to.

“I came on at 12 for about two or three minutes in that [Melbourne] game and I just got ran over Marika Koroibete, so I’m still falling backwards a bit from that one collision!

“It was good to get on, of course, but I would have had goals before the tour – starting games or getting to play a bit more – but that’s life and things don’t always go the way you want the to. I was pleased that I made the tour as I didn’t make the November international squad or the original Six Nations [squad].

“I just told myself, ‘If I keep performing well, they can’t keep ignoring me’. So I’m happy the way the season ended and getting on that tour. I’ll take the positives.”

Asked if he had any discussions with Joe Schmidt, before or during the tour, about playing time and his role, Cooney responded:

“Not really. He’s more clued in for the game in hand as it was such a big game. He didn’t talk to many of the players about it [selection calls]. He didn’t say much about it, now, but I’m just hoping, in November, to make the squad again and hopefully get a run-out then.

“I’ve just got to play well in September or October and just see what I can do for Ulster. That’s the main thing, really.”

Luke McGrath will be hoping to fling his hat into the scrum-half conversation, too, so Cooney will need to be at the top of his game… again.