When we first hear the news of players as talented as Colm Cooper hanging up their boots it is all too easy to focus on the trophies they’ve picked up over the years and the personal accolades they’ve amassed.
Much of the fanfare around the Gooch’s retirement recently did focus on those elements but what often isn’t covered in so much depth is the day-to-day of playing for your county and the isolation which sometimes comes with prolonged injury.
In a preview of his first column for the Irish Examiner, which is to be published on Saturday, the Kerry legend goes into startling detail around these issues, particularly how football was his ‘tonic’ following the death of his mother, Maureen, in August of 2014.
“The week after the Galway quarter-final, my mother had died. At a moment you’re thinking, ‘what else can go wrong in my life?’ Football was a tonic for me.
“The day after the funeral, I trained with Kerry, which was a surprise to some. But I needed it, I needed to be part of something, to be in that environment. A belonging. Kerry were on a journey, a crusade that summer, I knew I couldn’t contribute on the field of play, but if I can be around the place, maybe help someone in some moment?
“Within three weeks of burying my mother I had gone to togging out in an All-Ireland semi-final in Limerick. Then it turns out to be a game for the ages, Kerry winning a titanic battle and heading for an All-Ireland final. The shot of adrenaline that gave me…”
Sports stars of Cooper’s ilk can sometimes be viewed as immortal beings but this anecdote goes to show just how important the camaraderie within a team environment, and the very enjoyment of the game in its purist form, can be in helping even the most renowned players through difficult times.
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena