'It took a while to get over being dropped from the Cork panel to be honest...'

'It took a while to get over being dropped from the Cork panel to be honest...'

Cork’s Niall Coakley kicks goalwards in the 2017 Munster SFC final in Killarney. Picture: Inpho/Cathal Noonan

FORMER Cork footballer Niall Coakley had a head start over most when it came to adjusting to the new normal.

A senior account manager with Google, the Carrigaline man began to work remotely several days before the Irish government announced their first set of restrictions to tackle the Coronavirus on March 12.

The multinational technology company undertook an initial trial to see if it was possible for their employers to base themselves from home. Once this exercise went off without a hitch, it was readily apparent they would retain this policy for the foreseeable future.

“I think there’s 4,500 full-time employees and another 3,500 temporary employees.

“They were trying to see if the systems and everything like that would work okay with everyone logging on remotely.

“We did for two days and then the following week we went full remote. We’ve been working remotely ever since,” Coakley explained.

Coakley’s work with Google brought him to Dublin in 2014 and after continuing to play his club football with Carrigaline for the remainder of that season, he subsequently transferred to St Jude’s on the capital’s southside the following year.

This transfer looked set to dent his inter-county prospects but courtesy of a strong support network in both work and football, he was called up to the Rebels panel in advance of the 2016 championship.

“Maybe the stars had aligned to a certain degree. Firstly, with work I had actually just moved to a new team internally in Google.

“It was on the Irish team and my manager at the time was a woman called Marie Davis. She’s from Skibbereen and football royalty down there!” Coakley says.

“Secondly, Billy Sheehan [former Laois footballer] had actually moved to Templeogue and started playing with Jude’s. He ended up getting involved in the Cork set-up at the start of 2016.

“He said ‘look, we’re playing an internal challenge game here on Paddy’s Day. You’ll be down in Carrigaline anyway. Do you want to come in and play?’.

“Anyway, I went in and played. I played quite well and that was how it kind of happened for me. Bar being on a Cork minor training panel, I never would have played with Cork when I was with Carrigaline. Funny how it kind of happened.”

Coakley went on to feature prominently for the Leesiders in 2017, starring in a number of McGrath Cup and National League games before finally being handed his championship debut in a Munster final defeat to Kerry.

Yet when Ronan McCarthy replaced Peadar Healy in the Cork hot seat in the wake of their narrow qualifier exit to Mayo, he suddenly found himself surplus to requirements. Considering how much football he had played under the previous regime, Coakley admits he struggled to come to terms with being dropped off the panel.

“2017, I felt I’d shown throughout that the year that I was good enough to be at that level. I would have felt like 2018 would have been another chance for me to kick on even further at that level, but it wasn’t to be. 

"Ronan McCarthy and his selectors had other ideas. It was very disappointing. It took me a while to get over it, to be completely honest with you.

“There was a lot of other things then that I could focus on. I could give more time to Jude’s, I could give more time to work. With every downside or a disappointing bit of news, or disappointing decision like that, there is an upside to it. But I’d be lying in saying it didn’t affect me for a while.” 

Rather than focus on the past, Coakley is eager to look forward and remains optimistic about the road in front of him. Having not played a single game to date in 2020, the 30-year-old is hopeful of seeing some action before the year is out.

Niall Coakley kicks a point for St Jude’s against St Vincent’s in the 2017 Dublin SFC semi-final. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Niall Coakley kicks a point for St Jude’s against St Vincent’s in the 2017 Dublin SFC semi-final. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

He was part of the Jude’s team that lost out to Kilmacud Crokes in a Dublin county decider just under two years ago and believes they are on the cusp of a major championship breakthrough.

“It would be a bit of a sickener if I don’t get to play any football and I have to wait until next year. As I said, I’m dying for football, I’m dying for training, I’m dying to be back in that environment. Whether we get it, hopefully we will. There’s no telling what will happen between now and then, but hopefully we’ll get a club championship and maybe even a bit more,” Coakley added.

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