After calling time on his stellar inter county career this morning, it is now time to reflect on what Colm “Gooch” Cooper achieved in Kerry’s green and gold.
With his playing days for the Kingdom now a thing of the past, Gooch’s roll of honour speaks for itself. However, one question of the Killarney magician still remains. Is he the best to ever do it?
When branding someone the greatest of all time, what fits the criteria bill, and where does Cooper rank? Consistency and longevity? Check. All Irelands? Check. All Stars? Check. A distinct ability to mesmerise not only the defenders attempting to stop him, but also wow every spectator in attendance every time he laced up his boots? Check.
The Dr. Crokes man has spanned a 14 year career for his county, making his championship debut in 2002, his first year out of minor, against Limerick in the Munster championship. His final appearance came in last August’s All Ireland semi-final loss to Dublin. In between, Cooper has won it all, being the figure head of Kerry attacks down through the past decade and a half, most reliable to produce the goods on the biggest days.
Gooch amassed his four Celtic Cross’s in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2009, with a torn cruciate ligament which he sustained playing for his club robbing him of any playing time for the entire 2014 season, when Kerry beat Donegal in the All Ireland final.
He played in nine All Ireland finals and finished as top scorer or joint top scorer for the Kingdom in seven of those. He notched 23 goals and 283 points altogether in his 85 championship appearances, making him his county’s highest all time scorer.
Having finally clinched the only medal that had been evading him for so long in the game, a club All Ireland title with Crokes on St. Patrick’s Day in Croke Park, he can now bow out at the top. Cooper will still be lining out for his beloved club going forward.
During his days in the Kerry jersey, Cooper picked up eight All Stars along the way for outstanding performances season after season (Only Pat Spillane has more). In 2004 he really set the tone for the greatness that was to follow. He won his first All Ireland and also collected the Texaco Footballer of The Year award when he was still under-21. Tomas and Marc O’Sé are the only players with more appearances for Kerry than The Gooch.
The stats don’t bare all for this fairytale career, however. The corner forward’s pure talent, vision, raw skill, famed left boot and eye for goal endeared him to not only the Kingdom faithful but much further afield.
Often worth the admission fee alone, the 33-year-old had the X factor that people watch Gaelic football for. His quick thinking and flawless decision making set him apart. GAA fans simply loved to watch The Gooch at his brilliant best, single handedly lighting up Croke Park like he did on so many occasions throughout the years.
The debate on who is the greatest footballer of all time is one with no clarity for numerous reasons. It is too difficult to compare the best players from different generations. Honourable mentions go to fellow Kerry legends such as Jack O’ Shea, Micky O’ Connell, Spillane, the great Paidi O’ Sé. However, it can not be disputed that the Crokes maestro is the greatest of his era.
Cooper has done it all and has his name set firmly in the company of the finest ever players to play gaelic football as he pulls the curtain on an epic inter county career.
Best wishes Gooch. The best ever. No one that I've seen could lace his boots. And I don't say that lightly. Enjoy retirement my man 🏐👊🏼
— Tomás Ó Sé (@tomas5ky) April 4, 2017
— John Egan (@JohnEgan92) April 4, 2017
A footballing genius bows out. Bravo Gooch. You showed why brains and speed of thought always wins out.
— Ronan O Gara (@RonanOGara10) April 4, 2017
What a footballer The Gooch has been. Unmarkable at his best. The greatest 'Two trick pony' you're ever likely to see… Been a pleasure pic.twitter.com/oqkIiV8ZhO
— Brian O'Driscoll (@BrianODriscoll) April 4, 2017
— Eoin Brosnan (@brosnaneoin) April 4, 2017