Galway football manager Pádraic Joyce was asked during the week about the prospect of Peter Cooke making a reappearance for the county. He replied with characteristic bluntness.
“Again, the ball is in Peter’s court. We’ll take him back with open arms if he’s willing to come back, if he can. If he comes back, he needs to commit fully to it, not be coming and going to America. That’s just the way intercounty has gone. If he does come back he’ll be a big addition to us.”
For Cooke, who is within Sunday’s Connacht final of winning a provincial club medal with Moycullen, his job has been costly in football terms. Two years ago he missed his club’s first county title and this season in his absence Galway went all the way to the All-Ireland final and for 65 minutes were neck-and-neck down the home straight with eventual champions Kerry. An accomplished middle third player, Cooke would have been a great option for the county.
“I’m working for a Galway-based company [TitanHQ, a cyber security firm] but we have a presence in the US,” says Cooke at the AIB launch for the provincial club finals. “So in fairness, I’ve been at home now for a stint of two or three months. Which has been great, getting into a routine and training consistently with the lads and playing all the games.
“We have an office in Connecticut. So it’s three hours north of New York. It’s a bit up in the sticks but it’s a nice part of the world. That’s where we have a physical presence, but a lot of what we do would be remote.”
When Moycullen won the 2020 county championship they were unable to contest the Connacht title because of Covid and he missed out completely.
“Yeah, I was living over there permanently ... in New York and San Diego for 18 months, two years. I’d gone over in 2019 – I got a J1 visa coming out of college. I was working for the same company at the time.”
This year he has been able to make an impact. His late, late goal swung the county final against Salthill-Knocknacarra. Although he missed the unexpectedly easy win over Westport in the Connacht quarter-final because of illness, he was back for the equally unexpectedly hard slog against Roscommon champions Strokestown. Now they face an experienced Tourlestrane in the final.
If Cooke was losing out on big days with his club the same was happening at intercounty, and he wasn’t part of this year’s Connacht title-winning season. He doesn’t rule out a return but it remains uncertain. “I’m not too sure. It’s not something I’ve had to address just as a result of the club championship run. If we had lost, I would definitely have had to have a chat. There’s a lot of moving parts with work. I’ll have to address that as time moves on.”
Asked if county football is that important to him, he is keen to counter any impression of indifference.
“It’s probably the pinnacle of what I can do in my sporting career. It’s a serious honour and being a Galwegian, it means a lot not only to me but also to my family and that’s something I would never take for granted any time I’m in there.
“At the end of the day it’s an unbelievable honour to represent your county and to go out playing for Galway, win, lose or draw. It’s definitely important but over the past number of years I’ve had different things, different adventures and stuff that’s just part of life.”