Colm Cooper retires from inter county football
‘Gooch’ completed haul of all major senior honours three weeks ago with Dr Crokes
Kerry’s Colm Cooper lifts the Sam Maguire back in 2014. The 33-year-old is set to call time on his career. Photo: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Colm Cooper, Kerry’s four-time All-Ireland winner and one of the greatest forwards in their or anyone’s history, has retired from inter county football, a statement on the Kerry GAA website has confirmed.
The 33-year-old Dr Crokes player has called time on a 14-year spell in the Kerry jersey having spent the winter considering his future while leading his club to All-Ireland glory on St Patrick’s Day.
Cooper retires with four All-Ireland medals won on the field of play and though he was in and around the panel during his recuperation from a devastating knee injury in 2014, he played no onfield part in Kerry’s latest All-Ireland triumph. He played in nine All-Ireland finals and was Kerry’s top scorer either on his own or jointly in seven of them. The only exceptions were his first, in 2002 as a 19-year-old and his last, in 2015 at 32.
“Today I wish to announce my retirement from the Kerry Senior Football team,” Cooper said in a statement on the Kerry GAA website.
“It has been an amazing journey and one that I never wanted to end, however, I feel that this is the right time for me step away from inter county football. Representing the Kingdom for the past seventeen years has given me a tremendous amount of pride and satisfaction.
“To my Kerry teammates that I have soldiered with throughout the years, thank you for your guidance, patience and friendship. I feel extremely lucky to have experienced so many wonderful highlights with you all.
“To get the opportunity to play with, and against, some of the greatest players in the history of the GAA has given me memories that I will always treasure.
“During my career I have been very fortunate to work with some outstanding Kerry managers. They gave me the confidence to develop my game which allowed me to perform at the highest level.
“I would like to thank the Kerry County Board, backroom staff and medical teams for their constant help and support throughout my career.
“A huge thank you to the loyal Kerry fans at home and abroad for their continuous support. I now become a supporter and wish the team all the best in their quest for honours in 2017.
“I would like to thank my club Dr. Crokes for nurturing my talents and giving me the belief that there was no limit to what I could achieve, also to get the opportunity to Captain Kerry teams is something I’m extremely privileged to have done.
“I’m looking forward to continuing my Dr. Crokes career.
“Finally to my family, without you none of my successes would have been possible. Through the ups and downs, you were the people that believed in me and kept me going. For this I am forever grateful.
“It is very rare for people to achieve their ultimate dreams in life – I just have.”
Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice paid tribute to Cooper – who he played with and coached.
“I was lucky enough to have both played with and managed him. As a player when on the ball in matches I looked for him and in training I tended to steer clear of him. I thoroughly enjoyed working with him as manager. When I first took over Kerry one of the main things I wanted to do for the 2013 season was to release Colm from the confines of the inside line and allow him to express himself from centre forward. It was a fresh challenge for him and he set about learning the intricacies of his new position with gusto,” Fitzmaurice said.
Cooper retires having played in 85 championship games for Kerry, with only Marc and Tomás Ó Sé ahead of him in the Kerry appearances list. He is Kerry’s all-time leading scorer in championship football with 23-283 to his name, a record unlikely to be overtaken any time soon with his nearest challenger in the current squad Bryan Sheehan having only scored almost exactly half that.
He won the Texaco Footballer of the Year award in 2004 and will correctly be remembered as one of the truly outstanding players of his era. He won eight All Stars – only Pat Spillane has won more in history and nobody else in the modern era won more than five. His natural talent was admired by everyone who watched the game and his eye for goal set him apart.
The knee injury he suffered playing for Crokes in the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final was a blow he probably never quite fully recovered from but he retires a legend of the game nonetheless.
Fitzmaurice continued by telling a story of a masterclass Cooper put on a training camp in Portugal in 2013.
“On a training camp to Portugal one evening in April that year we played flat out football. I can still vividly recall his performance on that beautiful sunny evening as he put on a clinic of how a playmaker should run the game from 11. The excitement that generated in the group was incredible.
“Unfortunately we did come up short in 2013 but he had an excellent summer culminating in his signature performance in the All Ireland semi final.
“There was one moment prior to James O Donoghue’s goal when he had to take a step back to buy himself the half yard and half second necessary for the move to develop sufficiently before he threaded a delightful pass to Donnchadh Walsh who in turn set up James for the goal. It was Colm exemplified in one score. His awareness and decision making is on a different level.
“His ability to slow everything down for a second, his skills and of course that bit of magic he possesses with a feint or a dummy is what makes him so unique.
“His iron will to win and his leadership abilities shone through also. While recovering from a serious injury during the summer of 2014 he helped to drive the squad towards the All Ireland which depicted what a team player he was. He was one of the few players that managed to transcend county loyalties and was a player that people from all over the country loved to watch. He has given us all countless hours of enjoyment.”
Colm Cooper’s career through the years
2000: First county medal at 17 with Dr Crokes.
2002: Kerry championship debut v Limerick and first All Star.
2003: First Munster championship.
2004: First All-Ireland and Texaco Footballer of the Year.
2005: Played for Ireland in international rules.
2006: Second All-Ireland with Kerry and first Munster club medal, defeating next Sunday’s opponents The Nire in the final. Defeated by Crossmaglen in the All-Ireland final replay the following March.
2007: Third All-Ireland with Kerry.
2009: Fourth All-Ireland with Kerry.
2010-13: Four successive county titles with Dr Crokes.
2011-13: Three successive Munster club titles with Dr Crokes but defeated in subsequent All-Ireland semi-finals by Crossmaglen Ranmgers, Ballymun Kickhams and Castlebar Mitchels.
2013: Eighth All Star award.
2014: Ruptures cruciate ligament in All-Ireland semi-final against Castlebar. Misses Kerry’s All-Ireland win later in the year
2016: Sixth county medal with Dr Crokes and fifth Munster club title.
2017: Finally an All-Ireland club medal with Dr Crokes and scores a goal in the final against Slaughtneil.