Ronan Coughlan: 'It was a disappointing season and it was definitely the toughest I had mentally'

With reporting from Luke Jordan & Donal Ryan

Waterford striker Ronan Coughlan believes that he is reaping the rewards of staying professional during his disappointing second season with St Pat’s after joining the Blues.

Coughlan, 26, endured a dismal end to spell as a Saint after failing to establish himself as a regular first-team starter during the 2022 campaign.

The Limerick man enjoyed an impressive start to life at Richmond Park in 2021 and his first year at the club culminated in an FAI Cup final win over Bohemians.

But following Stephen O’Donnell’s departure at the end of that season, his opportunities became limited in Inchicore after he bounced back from a knee injury that plagued him for most of 2021.

“My first year at Pat’s was such a great year, and there was a great group,” Coughlan told the podcast this week. “Stevie (O’Donnell) and his assistant Patrick Cregg were top class.

“And then the second year came around. I was telling lads the other day, we won the cup final and were out for two days straight. I flew over to Finland then to get an operation on my knee and I basically played with a fractured knee cap after the first round of games (in 2021).

“I wasn’t the same player that season after that just to be of some use. In hindsight I wouldn’t do that again but I think I was a bit younger at the time.

“Obviously Stevie left and I had such a good time at Pat’s so I wanted to stay. I had the operation at the end of the season then and my second year there was the most challenging of my career mentally.”

At the end of the 2021 season, Coughlan committed to another year in Dublin 8 after undergoing surgery in Finland for a knee injury.

But he soon found himself out of favour under their then newly-appointed boss Clancy.

“I came back from Finland with my surgery and got back to work,” he explained. “I was fit around February/March time and I was training away with the team and doing well.

“I wasn’t getting much of a chance in the team and I felt like I was well within a shout of playing. I was being lied to a bit – I’m not going to go into it too much – but promises were made and not getting anything but disrespect.

“I got a few minutes here and there and then I tore my hamstring after coming on at half-time against Derry City in a 4-0 loss. That set me back for about 12 weeks and I came back just in time for the game against Mura in Europe.

“I did well and I scored in a penalty shootout which was great for the club as we got through. But there was a lot going on in the background and I wasn’t happy with how I was being treated.

“I felt disrespected and wasn’t happy. I trained well and was being professional but got nowhere with it. I stayed professional and worked on myself before the end of the season…

“You can take it two ways, sit or sulk or try to use the time to better yourself.”

But since then, Coughlan has found his form again for Waterford – albeit in the First Division – under new boss Keith Long at the RSC.

“I’d like to think that is paying off now,” he added. “It was a disappointing season and it was definitely the toughest I had mentally. It is not something I want to have happen to me again but it is something you learn from.

“I probably wouldn’t be playing like I am now if I didn’t have that so in a way I am glad. I think it was meant to happen for a reason. I believe it was just a test and I came through it. But I am happy now and enjoying my football again.”