Colm Cooper is set to make his 80th appearance for the Kingdom on Sunday
Colm ‘The Gooch’ Cooper was always destined for greatness it seems. People began to take note of Cooper’s ability after he made his debut for Dr. Crokes in the 2000 Kerry Senior Football Championship at sixteen years of age.
In his autobiography former Kerry manager Jack O’Connor wrote, ‘Word would have reached us down in South Kerry about how good he was when he was fairly young. When Declan started going into Killarney for underage Kerry teams, he’d come back with word of this skinny little kid called the Gooch who was literally unmarkable’.
Legendary manager Mick O’Dwyer also recalled, ‘From the day that I saw him as a Kerry minor, I knew that he was going to be one of the great players of our time. He proves it all the time. That’s how good Gooch is. He is one of the best players I have ever seen’.
In 2002, two years after making his first appearance for his club, the Gooch made his debut for Kerry in the Division Two National League Final against Laois scoring 1-2. Such was Cooper’s talent that he became a key feature in Kerry’s forward line that summer. Strong performances against Wicklow, Kildare, Galway and Cork saw the Gooch take the field for his first All Ireland Final against Armagh. Although Kerry were to lose that game, Cooper was rewarded with an All Star Award in his debut season.
The Gooch would have to wait until 2004 to win his first All Ireland. Four more would follow for Cooper in 2006, 2007, 2009 and was part of the squad that won the title last year. Since 2002 the ‘Gooch’ has won eight all star awards and has scored a total of 20-170 for Kerry in his 79 Championship games to date.
After recovering from fracturing his knee cap and damaging his cruciate knee ligament, Cooper has this season returned to the Kerry team, albeit from the bench. However his performance after coming on against Cork in the Munster Final Replay could earn him a stating spot.
In what is now a very structured game, holding a player like the ‘Gooch’ in reserve until August could be master stroke on Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s behalf. Unleashing Cooper in the open spaces of Croke Park, could make the Kerry forward line even more incisive as they aim to win back to back All Ireland titles.
In this regard it is worth remembering that he has scored 9-35 in the famous venue.
The only question that remains is whether or not he will be named from the start.
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena