‘We’re a huge family. The older ones grew up together’: Coakley can't avoid pull of Mourneabbey

‘We’re a huge family. The older ones grew up together’: Coakley can't avoid pull of Mourneabbey
Kathryn Coakley: ‘Everyone says the best time to step away is when you are on a high. But we couldn’t leave it just yet.’ Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Irrespective of how the result pans out, there is nowhere else in the world Kathryn Coakley would rather be tomorrow than lining out alongside her best friends in the black and amber of Mourneabbey.

It is the dream of so many - yet, realised by so few - to be involved in an All-Ireland senior final, as Coakley will be on Saturday.

But this won’t be her first All-Ireland final appearance, nor is she chasing a first medal. Coakley already has the full set of All-Ireland junior, intermediate, and senior club medals. The first two were won in 2005 and 2007, the half-back soldering with Mourneabbey’s flagship side for 15 years now.

Senior All-Ireland glory, after three final setbacks in four years, was - at long, long last - achieved last December.

In the months since that breakthrough win over Foxrock Cabinteely, Coakley has joined the thirties club and upped sticks to Tallow in Waterford where she and her partner have built a house.

No surprise then to hear her say she gave consideration to stepping away before the 2019 season commenced. The pull, however, was simply too strong.

“There’s a small group of us who have played the whole way up together from underage. We went to school together, trained together. They are your best friends and you do everything together. Roisin O’Sullivan is one of those and so when she got married last year, it was kinda like, are we going to go for another year. Sile O’Callaghan was part of that conversation too,” Coakley recalls.

“Everyone says the best time to step away is when you are on a high. But we couldn’t leave it just yet. Our attitude was why would we depart when we are still able to contribute.

“Of course, there are times when the trundle wheel is brought out at training and the running can be so hard that you’d be questioning yourself, but it makes it that bit easier having your best friends beside you. When things aren’t going your way, they are there to pick you up.

What we have with Mourneabbey is something everyone on the panel would miss hugely if they didn’t have it in their life.

She added: “My partner and I built a house in Tallow and moved in last April. It could have been the right time to step away, but I just couldn’t. The drive to training is an hour over and hour back. It is a lot of commitment and the odd time you’d get into the car and think, not again, with regard to the drive in front of you, but I really do enjoy the training.

“It will be a huge change for me when I do retire. From going out playing with your best friends every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday or Sunday, to not having that will be a massive void. I won’t know what to do with myself.”

This evening’s clash with Connacht champions Kilkerrin-Clonberne is Mourneabbey’s fifth time to reach the All-Ireland final since 2014. They’ve managed six-in-a-row at county and provincial level during this period. Coakley, an accountant with Grant Thornton, has her own theory as to why they’ve enjoyed the success they have.

“We are a huge family. The older ones, myself included, have all grown up together and now that the younger ones have joined us, they have become part of the family. The youngest member of the panel is 16-year-old Anna Ryan. I could as easily be kicking the ball at training with Anna as I could Sile O’Callaghan.

“There are absolutely no cliques and everybody is just as happy to sit down and talk to the youngest or the oldest. Everyone has the same goal, everyone is where they want to be, and thankfully, that is back in an All-Ireland final.”

The appetite, she swears, is as strong as it was 12 months ago when they were driven by the pain and hurt of three All-Ireland final defeats.

“As a collective, I don’t think there was anyone that doubted that we weren’t going to try again. Shane Ronayne (manager) has left no stone unturned. To win a second All-Ireland senior would mean the world to everyone of us. Last year was one of the best days of the whole team’s life so to achieve that again would be unbelievable. To win with your family, it is the best thing ever.”

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