Johnny Coen says Galway’s defensive young guns ‘passing test of time’

“What are they waiting for,” asks a bullish Johnny Coen.

Johnny Coen says Galway’s defensive young guns ‘passing test of time’

The new-look Galway full-back line, of which Coen is now the old hand, has been identified by various scribes and pundits this summer as the county’s Achilles heel.

Their concerns, to a point, are valid.

Coen, at the ripe old age of 24, is by far and away the most experienced member of the Galway back three, with full-back John Hanbury (22) and corner-back Pádraig Mannion (24) earning their championship debuts little over two months ago.

Indeed, since thrown together by Anthony Cunningham for their second league game against Tipperary on February 22, the questions marks have been many, the compliments few.

Coen simply cannot fathom the doubters.

Two goals they’ve conceded this summer, the Cork and Dublin attacks muted in the process.

“Everyone is talking about the relative inexperience of the full-back line. We played in every single league match and have played every championship match together. We really have stood the test of time,” he asserted.

“The two boys beside me have settled in really well. They have gone from strength from strength. Hanbury is one of the best full-backs we’ve seen in U21 last year and Pádraig is absolutely flying it this year.

“You could say it’s relatively inexperienced but they have been tested and they have come up good on the day.”

A major factor in their development has been the faith shown by management.

John O’Dwyer and Seamus Callanan profited from errors in the Galway defence to plunder two goals early in the second-half of that league fixture back in February. With Fergal Moore and Kevin Hynes on the bench, the options for management to revert to the tried and trusted were there.

“We could have been a bit raw at the time. Being the new guys in, they are bound to be nervous. With games and with consistency, the two lads have gone above and beyond themselves.”

As has been the case with the full-back line, management’s refusal to chop and change further out the field - 20 players have earned starting berths in their five championship outings - has lent itself to a settled Galway team.

“Oh a settled team would have to make a difference. Last year there was people coming in and out of the panel and it wasn’t really a very settled team.

“In terms of confidence on your own behalf, literally knowing you have a role to play in the team and this is your role. If you’re working on your strengths every single time, you’re not going to be put out on the wing, you’re not going out midfield, you’re not doing any of that sort of stuff. You know what your duty is.”

Having been drafted into the set-up by John McIntyre in 2011, Coen rose to prominence the following summer when winning the Young Hurler of the Year award off the back of the county’s run to the September showpiece.

“It was really a dream year for a lot of us. One of my first years on the panel and you’d be thinking you’d be there or thereabouts every single year.

“The Tipperary defeat last year hasn’t really been talked about, it’s more been the lads’ attitude over the last two years. You’d really want to be taking a serious look at yourself and saying are you really trying your best or are you just showing up every now and then? Thankfully this year, lads have trained hard and backed each other up to the last.”

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up