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Libby Coppinger - From Junior C Camogie To All-Star?

Libby Coppinger - From Junior C Camogie To All-Star?
By Paul Keane
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Shortly after Colaiste Pobail Bheanntrai opened its doors a decade ago, camogie training started up for anyone that was interested.

Tony Coppinger was happy to help out. New start ups were his thing and a couple of years after helping to form the nearby St Colum's camogie club in 2009, he jumped at the opportunity.

He figured that his friend Eamonn Ryan, renowned for his success with Cork ladies football teams but also a keen student of hurling, would be a useful ally.

The pair were standing together at school training one humdrum afternoon when Ryan noticed a particularly promising player sticking out.

"Eamonn turns to me and he says, 'Has this girl ever had a trial with Cork?'" recalled Coppinger.

"He didn't know that it was Libby, my niece, or anything at the time.

"I said, 'Not really'."

"Sure enough, two weeks later she got a phone call from Cork camogie."

Coppinger went in with the Cork minors that year and developed so quickly that just two years later she was the first substitute introduced by the Cork seniors in the 2016 All-Ireland final defeat to Kilkenny.

A year later, when Cork gained revenge, and wrestled back the O'Duffy Cup, Coppinger was established in defence and she lined out in the 2018 final defeat of Kilkenny too.


A dual player these days with Cork, and a household name hoping to win her first PwC Camogie All-Star award, it is easy to forget just how close the west Cork girl came to being overlooked as an elite camogie player, for another while at least.

Until her uncle Tony helped set up the camogie club, when she was around 13, she'd actually played all of her underage hurling with the boys.

"Sure it might have toughened me up a little bit as well!" she smiled.


"There were a few of us girls involved, so we had a bit of a mix.

"You don't see it as much anymore.

"I guess when we were such a small club it was the only way to do it.

"Thankfully we all came out fairly unscathed and hopefully I didn't injure any of the boys either!"

It wasn't until 2018 that St Colum's put out an adult camogie team, and they duly won the Junior C 13-a-side competition that first year, with Libby playing and Tony managing.

Coppinger had played with the adult camogie team in Clonakilty until then but jumped at the chance to represent her local club.


Truth be told, life would probably be a lot easier for Coppinger if she simply upped sticks and moved into Cork city, or closer to it at least, but her ties to her parish in remote west Cork remain strong.

So, several times a week, she drives the hour and a quarter to camogie training at the Castle Road camogie grounds, or even further to football training.

On the way back, she'll eventually breathe out when she gets beyond the Cousane Gap.


"When I'm coming over Cousane, down into Kealkill, I'd always be like, 'I'm home now', it's only 15 or 20 minutes left from there, the hard part is over," she said.

St. Colum's first All-Star?

Her clubmate, Alan O'Connor, won an All-Ireland medal with the Cork footballers in 2010, locking down one of the midfield berths next to Aidan Walsh that season. Coppinger has her All-Ireland medals too but, so far, an All-Star award has yet to be brought back to the club.


"That's true, I actually hadn't even thought of that," said Coppinger.

"It would be massive.

"You're going for the biggest prize on offer first of all, the All-Ireland, but an All-Star is definitely something that would be a huge honour to get, it would be massive for the club."

The slight problem for Coppinger, full-back for Cork in August's narrow All-Ireland final loss to Kilkenny, is that she won't actually be around for the ceremony. She flew out last Friday to Kenya for the fundraising Plant the Planet games. 50 high profile male and female players from the GAA world were invited on the trip, to play in a unique mixed tournament, with the proviso being that they had to try to raise €10,000 each first.

"When you heard €10,000 at the start, you're going, 'Oh my God!'" admitted Coppinger.

"Thankfully I'm working with Alter Domus and they actually sponsored half of it for me so that was a huge chunk and three local businesses at home; Drinagh Co-Op, Super Valu and Murphy and O'Connor helped me out too.

"People in the community have been very generous as well. I've been very grateful for all the generosity from everyone, I absolutely appreciate it."

'Nailed on'

But what about the PwC Camogie All-Star, what if her name is called out as a recipient?

"I've nominated my sister!" revealed Coppinger.

"She will go up and accept it if there is one to be picked up."

Back in August, in the run up to the All-Ireland decider, former Cork manager Paudie Murray suggested that Coppinger already had the PwC Camogie All-Star in the bag.

"I think Libby now is probably coming into the section of her career that she can drive on and put herself forward as one of the greats of the game in her generation," said Murray.

"She's a nailed on All-Star in my eyes."

Uncle Tony, perhaps unsurprisingly, agrees.

"She was one of the more consistent players this year for Cork as the year went on," he said.

"Unfortunately they just came up that bit short on the day of the All-Ireland.

"It was the one that got away."

Whatever happens, Libby Coppinger will be back on the beat again next season, with club and county. And doing it all from her beloved Kealkill.

"I try to stay up around the city a bit more during the summer months, when it's more hectic, but I'm down at home now and a lot of the time really.

"I like to be a bit more rural if I can be!" she smiled.

To support Libby Coppinger and the Plant the Planet Games, a fundraiser to help plant one million trees in Africa, visit this link

-additional reporting - Sadbh Redmond

SEE ALSO: It Was A Year To Remember For Shanise Fitzsimons And Cavan Camogie

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