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'It hasn't been done for anyone of amateur status' - Gooch set for testimonial dinner

The event will take place in Dublin in late October.

Colm Cooper Colm Cooper at the Testimonial Dinner press event at Zurich Insurance headquarters yesterday. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

FIVE ALL-IRELAND senior medals with Kerry, eight All-Star awards and an All-Ireland senior club medal with Dr Crokes.

A collection of honours that encapsulate the glittering career of Colm Cooper, who called time last April on his inter-county days.

Now the attacking star is set to break new ground with the first testimonial dinner for a GAA player.

The event will take place at the Intercontinental Hotel in Ballsbridge on 27 October with the hope that a crowd of 500 people will be drawn on the night.

A table of 10 is priced at €5000 with two charities – Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin and Kerry Cancer Support Group – set to benefit.

The event is the brainchild of Cooper’s friend Mick Culhane who first suggested it to the Gooch a few years ago. Still playing at the time in Kerry colours, he was a little uncomfortable with the thought and parked it until he hung up his boots at inter-county level.

Having attended similar events for Brian O’Driscoll and Ronan O’Gara, Cooper became enthused at the prospect and was particularly keen for charities to be aided.

Brian O'Driscoll and Ronan O'Gara celebrate with the Six Nations Trophy Brian O'Driscoll and Ronan O'Gara after the 2009 Six nations win. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“One of the big things for me is that on the night we’re hoping to have people there from all facets of Irish sport so it’s a celebration really. It’s something that’s never been done so we’re going into the unknown a bit.

“Will this happen for other GAA players? Quite possibly. It’s kind of a look back and a reward for the careers that we’ve had.”

“I spoke with Paraic Duffy on it.  I said, ‘look, this is what we’re planning to do Paraic and I understand it hasn’t been done for a GAA player before’. He had no issue with it whatsoever and I met him twice.

“It hasn’t been done for anyone of amateur status. My first question to Mick was, ‘Do you really think we’ll get 500 people to come to this?’ Particularly in Dublin for a Kerry person.

“That was my main concern to be honest. Mick was quite confident. Sometimes when you’re involved in sport, you only think of Kerry. You’re in that bubble.

“But I think generally, there is a huge appreciation and admiration of sports people in Ireland, that sometimes gets overlooked. That’s why we wanted to make this a GAA thing.

“Certainly it’s something I’m excited about, something I’m looking forward to.”

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Cooper is aware that the financial element of the evening will come under the spotlight.

“That will always be the elephant in the room. Like, the aim of the night wasn’t to raise funds for Colm Cooper albeit that people might have different views on that.

“We wanted to have a GAA celebration because we’ve seen all these sporting stars in Ireland have these nights.

“And obviously the charities were very much to the fore of it as well. I’ve been very, very fortunate in my career to get a lot of support from different people.

Colm Cooper with Thomas O'Carroll Colm Cooper with the Sam Maguire at Crumlin Children's Hospital in 2007. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“This is a way of giving back because I am conscious, I am probably old news already, but I will certainly be old news by 2018.

“This is probably me signing off. That’s basically the reasons behind it.”

Both charities are close to Cooper’s heart.

“In Kerry, the Kerry Cancer Support Unit is a bus that brings people to Cork for cancer treatment. My own mother had a bout of cancer before she passed away. I know a lot of people who use that bus, travel to Cork. They don’t receive any funding, or government or HSE money.

“The Crumlin (Children’s Hospital), I’ve been there many times, doing different things. Sometimes you leave a different person than when you go in. It has an effect on you for anybody who has been there.

“I’ve known families with kids who have gone in there, some of whom have got better, some who unfortunately didn’t get better. If we can raise some significant funds for these people, help them in some small way, that’s very much to the fore of it.

Colm Cooper Colm Cooper at yesterday's press conference. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“When we contacted them, they were over the moon. It’s a first, we don’t know what we’re going to raise. We’re hoping to have an auction on the night as well, give some GAA and sports memorabilia away.”

Several well-known sporting figures are set to attend but Cooper was remaining tight-lipped yesterday as to their identity.

“(There’s a) couple of jockeys confirmed, couple of rugby stars, couple of Irish soccer people. Few Kerry heads. Lots of GAA people, not just Kerry, a spread across the hurling and football divide.

“We are hopeful of having a couple of female sports stars, there is a couple from the business and political world as well.

“It will be an interesting night of celebration across all codes to be honest. That’s why we are really excited about it.”

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