Colm Cooper’s season-ending cruciate injury has come as a massive shock to Kerry
‘Bad results like Saturday’s can be absorbed but something like this really deflates people’
Colm Cooper after he had fallen awkwardly under a challenge when kicking for a point in O’Moore Park on Saturday. A scan later revealed his anterior cruciate ligament had been ruptured.
The news of Colm Cooper’s season-ending cruciate injury has come as a massive shock to Kerry football. Just getting over the disappointment of champions Dr Crokes losing a third successive All-Ireland semi-final, the county now has to come to terms with losing both the captain and most influential player for this year’s championship.
He had to be replaced early in Saturday’s All-Ireland club semi-final against Castlebar Mitchels after falling awkwardly under a challenge when kicking for a point. News came through yesterday that a scan had revealed the anterior cruciate ligament to have been ruptured.
His performances since making his championship debut in 2002 have made Cooper the most feared forward in the game over that period, which has seen him been awarded with eight All Stars and the Texaco Footballer of the Year citation in 2004.
In the best match of last year’s championship his talent drove Kerry’s early dominance of the All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin. It was his best display at centre forward - a position in which he has been deployed in more recent years - as he directed and orchestrated a scintillating series of attacks on the opposition.
Pat O’Shea, a Crokes club-mate of long standing who managed both the club and the county to All-Ireland finals in 2007, winning the Sam Maguire but losing the club decider, was the first coach to use Cooper on the ‘40’. He says that both the player and county are facing a difficult year.
“Colm has been one of the luckiest – and also well-conditioned – of players over the years and I can’t remember the last time he had to come off injured in a match. It’s particularly difficult now from the Kerry point of view, as you have to assume he won’t be back this year.
“Bad results like Saturday’s can be absorbed but something like this really deflates people. After losing you just dust yourself down. GAA people are resilient enough but injury and especially long-term injury is a different thing.
“It’s been a tough few years for him on the field. In 2011 he was the Kerry captain and it looked like he was going to achieve one of the great milestones in the game, leading the county to an All-Ireland but it didn’t happen. His performances have always been top drawer but the results haven’t gone his way.”
The injury is all the more demoralising because in the display against Dublin last August, many saw the potential emergence of a rejuvenated Kerry with new players stepping up to the mark.
“I agree 100 per cent,” according to O’Shea, “but I think he was crucial to that sense. A lot of the positive feelings about it related to Colm and the way his game had evolved. Like Peter Canavan in his later years, he had become more of a playmaker and was able to influence the game in a variety of different ways. Colm made everyone else on the field look better.
“His intelligent passing of the ball and unselfish play meant he’s always been doing his best for the team and not just looking after his individual game. It will be hard for Kerry to have that confidence without him.”
John O’Keeffe was coach with Kerry when Cooper broke through onto the senior team. He says that although the club’s All-Ireland campaign has just ended, Crokes will miss their star player when the new season gets under way. “There’s another disappointment in that the club could be looking forward to equalling (Tralee club) Mitchel’s five-in-a-row from the 1960s and Colm is so important to Crokes; he orchestrates everything. He’s also captain of the Kerry team.”
Like O’Shea, he highlights the impact of Cooper as play maker for the team. “On the ‘40’ he’s that bit more space and time on the ball and his distribution is exceptional – picking out the likes of James O’Donoghue and the full forwards. He’s a great link between the half forwards and the inside line.
“It’s a bad blow. He’s going to be very difficult to replace because a lot of Kerry strategy is based around Colm. Although he’s a renowned finisher it’s his setting up of play that has given the team a new dimension and that’s the way he’d have been used this year together with the pace of Darran O’Sullivan and James O’Donoghue.
“There’s probably been more concern about the back division with Tomás Ó Sé retired along with all of the others but that was when everyone assumed Colm would be there leading the attack.”
Pat O’Shea says that everyone will hope for an uncomplicated rehabilitation and that this will challenge the player in different ways.
“It’s lonely work, rehab, working on your own but the important thing for him is to get in and get the operation done successfully.”