Updated at 16.00
IT WAS THE one piece of silverware that had eluded Colm Cooper in his storied career, but the decorated forward finally got his hands on the Andy Merrigan Cup yesterday.
The 33-year-old was clinical as ever in front of goal, and his tally of 1-2 paved the way to victory for Dr Crokes as they ran out two-point winners over Slaughtneil at Croke Park.
Finally, stalwarts like Cooper, Eoin Brosnan and Ambrose O’Donovan followed in the footsteps of the Class of 92 as the Kerry kingpins were crowned All-Ireland champions for a second time in their history.
Cooper was a mascot that day 25 years ago, but he was a central figure today as Crokes put some harrowing defeats behind them.
“I don’t think words can describe how I’m feeling right now,’ an emotional Cooper said last night. “It’s relief, it’s joy. It’s a lot of things.
“We’ve been up, we’ve been down, we’ve lost, we’ve come close, we’ve had setbacks, we’ve had injuries. We’ve had it all.
“To win out there, and I know it wasn’t vintage Dr Crokes by any manner or means, but sometimes they’re games you just have to win and possibly we wouldn’t have won those a few years ago so we’re delighted with it.
An All-Ireland final loss to Crossmaglen in 2007 coupled with three semi-final defeats in-a-row between 2012 and 2014 made this victory all the sweeter for the Kerry star.
He suffered a horrific knee injury in their last four defeat to Castlebar Mitchels in 2014, and many felt it put an end to his changes of ever going all the way in the competition.
He spent the next 14 months on the sidelines as part of a painstaking recovery and in 2015 admitted he came “pretty close” to quitting the game at the time.
“It was an incredibly low point,” Cooper said of the injury. “I didn’t know whether I’d even get back to play with Kerry never mind win an All-Ireland club with Dr Crokes.
“That’s where these guys have hung in and cajoled me along and thankfully I’ve got back to playing a bit of better football this year and I’m enjoying it.
“I’ve pretty much poured everything into this since we lost with Dublin out here in the semi-final last year. I poured everything into Dr Crokes because I knew there wouldn’t be too many more opportunities for us again.
“It was great, Eoin Brosnan coming on at the end, I’m so happy for so many players, Luke Quinn did his cruciate, Kieran O’Leary his achilles, all tough injuries, out for a year, but finally it came right for us today so that’s the most pleasing thing for me.”
Cooper has yet to make a decision on his inter-county future with Kerry, but that’s not something he’s going to rush into.
“I spoke with Eamonn at Christmas. I said, ‘do your thing, I’ll do my thing and we’ll chat when the Crokes journey is over’.
“Look, I envisage that we’ll talk in the next week or so and thrash it out and see where we go. I’m sure we’ll come to the right conclusion.”
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