Colm Cooper to decide on his future at the end of club campaign
Kerry star concentrating for now on Dr Crokes’ Kerry county final assignment
Colm Cooper: “We certainly didn’t think they [Dublin] were invincible. When you come from Kerry, you think you can beat everyone.” Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
“Well I’ve heard both,” says Colm “Gooch” Cooper, addressing the rumours of his pending retirement from Kerry football. It is pending alright, only Cooper has no idea when it will actually happen.
“I heard on the Friday night, before the All-Ireland, that I was definitely staying on. And I heard last Tuesday night, when I finished training with Dr Crokes, that I was retired. There were quite a few notifications on Twitter.
“To be honest, I haven’t made any decision on it, and I won’t make any rash decision. When we lost to Dublin, there was huge disappointment, and I just wanted to get back into the club scene, back playing. That’s where the enjoyment comes from.
“Whenever the Dr Crokes thing finishes up then I need to take a look at the overall picture. How’s the body? The enjoyment? The hunger? And then hopefully make the right decision. But when you’re immersed in the middle of a championship it’s hard to do that.”
That immersion continues on Sunday when his club, Dr Crokes, face Kenmare District in the Kerry county final. It’s Crokes first final appearance since 2013, when Cooper helped them to four titles in a row, only to rupture his cruciate ligament in the All-Ireland semi-final, a few months later.
Part of his motivation right now is to get Dr Crokes back to the top of Kerry football, while also dispelling some of the lingering disappointment of Kerry’s All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Dublin. That defeat, Cooper admits, hurt even more that the 2015 All-Ireland final defeat to Dublin. Whatever about it being one they left behind this year, Cooper feels Dublin showed clear signs of vulnerability this summer – particularly against Mayo.
“I don’t know if this is Kerry’s opinion, or Colm Cooper’s opinion, but I felt we performed better against Dublin this year. I think we could stand back after the 2015 final and say we didn’t play well enough to win. Losing by three points probably flattered us, to be honest.
If anything, he suggests, those recent defeats to Dublin possibly stand out and hurt more than any of Kerry’s victories, including their 2009 quarter-final thrashing of Dublin:
“It’s true, those matches you do think back on, if I stuck that goal or scored that free or made that pass, would things have been different? But that is it in competitive animals, competitive players, competitive people, in everything there are ‘what ifs’ and ‘if I had done this’.
“But when I look back on the season, I was far happier than the year before. And I enjoyed it a lot more. It didn’t finish the way we wanted it to finish, but it was more enjoyable for me.
At 33 (34 at the height of next summer), Cooper knows his competitive days are numbered. Still, the only obvious candidates for retirement are Marc Ó Sé, Aidan O’Mahony, possibly Kieran Donaghy too.
Watching how close Mayo got to Dublin this year certainly offers all of them further enticement to come back for 2017.
“To be fair Mayo showed huge intensity and aggression the first day. And the second day too. But they caught a lot of people by surprise the first day, maybe even Dublin.
“That’s hard to do over two games, and maybe Dublin were a little more ready the second day, but that game was still in the melting pot coming down the stretch as well.
“I think there was an invincibility about Dublin, but I think Kerry and even more Mayo showed you can compete with Dublin, can run them close, and they are beatable, even if they haven’t been beaten yet.
“But it will be hard to walk away whenever it happens. Who knows about next year? You think because you’re close to the top you might kick on, but you might fall back. You never know in football. I wouldn’t take anything for granted. It will be a sad day whenever it comes, next year or two years, but right now I don’t know.”
He welcomes Éamonn Fitzmaurice’s decision to stay on for another year, and had “inklings during the summer that he probably would stay on”.
But again, just because Kerry came close this summer doesn’t automatically transfer for another 12 months.
“Kerry feel they are not too far away, and when you look at the All-Ireland finals, they feel they are on that level with Mayo and Dublin. And we certainly didn’t think they [Dublin] were invincible. When you come from Kerry, you think you can beat everyone. Maybe that is arrogance or you can call it anything you want, maybe it was the tradition we have.
“Was there doubt or a lack of belief that we could beat them? I didn’t think that was the case.”