The Tipperary Contingent involved in professional rugby continues to increase with the news that Littleton born prop JP Cooney (22) has joined Connaught Rugby and could feature in this year’s prestigious Heineken Cup competition.
JP is a member of the famous Cooney family from Littleton whose name is synonymous with the Sean Treacy Pipe Band. The son of Andrew and Catherine Cooney Ballybeg Littleton, JP is a past pupil of Littleton National School and Thurles CBS and is a former player with Thurles RFC.
He has being playing his club rugby with top Limerick City side Garryowen while studying to be a Science teacher at the University of Limerick.
Speaking to the local media in Limerick the Bateman Cup winning Garryowen prop said “To be honest, this is the chance I wanted all my life since I was younger. I am really happy, that it has worked out for me at this moment in time. I had started a job in Limerick in Vistakon in the quality control lab. I hadn’t heard anything much over the summer in terms of moving on with rugby. I was just presuming I would be playing with Garryowen. So about three weeks into the pre-season, the Garryowen coaches Tom Tierney and Paul Neville were saying there may be an opportunity for me at Connacht. But I didn’t want to get my hopes up until I heard from Connacht themselves. Then when I did hear, I was thrilled to get a chance like that. I am trying to grasp the idea of being a full-time pro, idea that I don’t have to sleep all day to be able to go out and do a night shift. I do my training, go the gym and that is it. I don’t have to do anything else.”
JP joins fellow Tipperary forward at Connaught Eoghan Grace (26) from Clonmel who joined the RaboDirect PRO12 side from Exeter Chiefs last season having previously been in the Munster Academy. Ironically Cooney’s first game for Connaught was the recent pre-season friendly against Exeter and like his fellow Tipperary forward he too was previously involved in the Munster Academy, however he decided to pursue his teaching degree at the University of Limerick. He said “I played U-18, U-19 and U-20s with Munster. I was in the Academy for a year or two. But at the time, while rugby is a very big part of my life, it would have been very important for me to get my education first. Because of that, you have to have great commitment to be playing in a Munster Academy, things didn’t really work out for me at that time.
“But I still kept playing and training away with Garryowen. I was really happy when the opportunity with Connacht presented itself just after I have finished college. Now I have my degree and now I know if anything ever happened to me I have something to fall back on.”