Colm Cooper delights in completing haul as Dr Crokes land All-Ireland
Kerry star to decide future in coming days after win over Derry side Slaughtneil
Colm Cooper of Dr. Crokes scores a goalas they beat Slaughtneil to claim the All-Ireland Senior Club Football Championship. Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Dr Crokes 1-9 Slaughtneil 1-7
Impossible as it once seemed for Colm “Gooch” Cooper to finish his career without this one prize that had always escaped him, the impossibility now is him trying to describe the actual winning of it. No words can easily do it justice.
Fate and destiny certainly collided in perfect harmony on this grey St Patrick’s Day as r Dr Crokes closed the deal on their own All-Ireland club football ambitions, 25 years after their first and only other title, only with fate laying both hands on Cooper.
At 33, three years after the cruciate ligament injury which may well have dead-ended his career, Cooper put the jewel in his own crown: five All-Ireland titles with Kerry, nine Munster football titles, and now an All-Ireland with his club.
“I know it wasn’t vintage Dr Crokes by any manner or means,” said Cooper, briefly cornered outside the team dressingroom before their return to Killarney.
“Sometimes there are games you just have to win, and possibly we wouldn’t have won those a few years ago . . . We’ve been up. We’ve been down. We’ve lost. We’ve come close. We’ve had setbacks. We’ve had injuries. We’ve had it all.”
And all the while people reminding Cooper this was the one medal that eluded him: “They did, and maybe that puts an end to that! Look, I’ve been very, very open throughout my career. This was on my radar. And I didn’t know if I’d get a chance again so that makes it more pleasing and more satisfying for me having that ticked off. To do it with the guys that I’ve soldiered so long with and that I grew up with. How can you describe that? I just don’t think words can describe how I’m feeling right now. It’s relief, it’s joy. It’s a lot of things.
“And there were incredibly low points. I didn’t know whether I’d even get back to play with Kerry, never mind win an All-Ireland club with Dr Crokes. Yeah, possibly it flashed through my mind for sure. That’s where these guys have hung in and cajoled me along and thankfully I’ve got back to playing a bit of better football this year.”
Cooper’s future with Kerry, hitherto uncertain, will be decided within days, the expectation here being he will continue: “I’ve pretty much poured everything into this since we lost with Dublin out here in the semi-final last year. I poured everything into Dr Crokes because I knew there wouldn’t be too many more opportunities for us again.
“Look, I spoke with Eamonn [Fitzmaurice, Kerry manager] at Christmas. I said, ‘you do your thing, I’ll do my thing and we’ll chat when the Crokes journey is over’. Look, I envisage that we’ll talk in the next week or so and thrash it out and see where we go. I’m sure we’ll come to the right conclusion.”
Slaughtneil must draw more immediate conclusions from this game, handing them another deal in disappointment, this defeat coming just two years after their last visit to Croke Park – this challenge mostly undone just before half-time when they lost key midfielder Paudie Cassidy to a straight red card.
By then already low scoring – Dr Crokes up 1-6 to 1-5 at the break – only four scores were added in the second half, the Kerry champions closing out the game with their heads, all the while making the extra man count.
Gooch collected 1-2 of his own, including two frees, while Brian Looney hit three from play, while Daithi Casey also hit three, including two frees. Slaughtneil selector John Joe Kearney admitted afterwards that losing Cassidy, their attacking midfelder, was pivotal, especially as the Derry champions had the upper hand for much of the first half.
Cassidy had scored their goal after 13 minutes, taking a great pass from Cormac O’Doherty, dribbling beautifully towards the goalmouth, and finishing his goal with grace. Chrissy McKeigue might well have earned them a penalty not long after, breaking up from centre back to find himself hauled down just outside the area; Paul Bradley converted the free.
Still, Crokes didn’t wait long to respond, as on 20 minutes Casey’s searing run at goal saw him fist off to Cooper at the last moment, who duly finished into the net with unearthly calmness.
In truth Cassidy’s loss was fatal, his strike in the groin of Kieran O’Leary in full view of referee Maurice Deegan a crazy move and he knew it, the goal scorer shaking his head in disbelief at himself as he walked into the stand.
DR CROKES (KERRY): S Murphy; J Payne, M Moloney, L Quinn; D O’Leary, G White, F Fitzgerald; A O’Donovan, J Buckley (capt); A O’Sullivan, G O’Shea, B Looney (0-3); C Cooper (1-2, two frees), D Casey (0-3, two frees), K O’Leary.
Subs: M Burn (0-1) for O’Sullivan, J Kiely for O’Shea (both 40 mins), T Brosnan for Looney (58 mins), E Brosnan for Casey, C Brady for O’Leary (both 63 mins).
SLAUGHTNEIL (DERRY): A McMullan; B Rogers, P McNeill, K McKaigue; K Feeney, C McKaigue, F McEldowney (capt) (0-1); Patsy Bradley, P Cassidy (1-0); M McGrath, C Bradley (0-2), Shane McGuigan (0-1); Se McGuigan, C O’Doherty, Paul Bradley (0-3, all frees).
Subs: B Cassidy for O’Doherty (48 mins), B McGuigan for Feeney, R Bradley for McGrath (both 52 mins), G Bradley for S McGuigan (53 mins).
Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois).