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'They wouldn’t operate because it’s tricky and they felt I was too young'

Bill Cooper has overcome injury travails to make his mark for the Cork hurlers.

BILL COOPER MADE his inter-county debut for Cork back in 2011, donning the Rebel jersey in a hurling league game against Tipperary.

Bill Cooper Bill Cooper will be in action for Cork against Tipperary next Sunday. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Yet when Cork contested that famous two-game saga against Clare to determine the destination of the Liam MacCarthy Cup in 2013, a troublesome back injury had stalled his career and he was watching on.

“I was involved in 2010 and 2011, but I got a back injury and was out for 14 months,” recalls Cooper.

“I had a bulging disc in my back – fairly crippled. Shooting pains in the leg, all that. They wouldn’t operate because it’s tricky and they felt I was too young.

“Like any injury, you’d be fearing the worst. Wear and tear caused it – I was serving my time as a carpenter and training hard, that was it.

“I went back to college to study quantity surveying, though.”

The injury improved and his career has enjoyed a renaissance. When Cork claimed the Munster title in 2014, Cooper was centre-forward chipping in with a brace of points as they saw off Limerick.

The good times have not flowed as freely since. Cork exited the 2014 championship after an All-Ireland semi-final pasting at the hands of Tipperary and their last outing in 2015 was a miserable one against Galway.

Cooper accepts their ranking behind the leading contenders as they get set for their 2016 Munster opener against Tipperary next Sunday.

“People are talking about the counties they’re talking about with good reason.

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“We haven’t shown – we’ve been well behind the rest of the leading pack, we are where we are because of how we’ve been performing.

“It’s a bit of everything – other counties have improved and we probably still have some development to do.

“We know we’re a long way behind the Tipperary’s and the Kilkenny’s, Waterford, the other teams. We’re under no illusions about the amount of ground we need to make up.”

A new management team is in place this year as Cork try to make up that ground. Frank Flannery was ushered in as trainer, fresh from his club exploits with Wexford’s Oulart-the-Ballagh.

Cooper had crossed paths with him before at club level as well.

“He’s been very good. A great coach, we had him with our club (Youghal) in 2009 and he’s really putting his stamp on it.

Kieran Kingston with coach Frank Flannery Frank Flannery with Cork manager Kieran Kingston Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“That said, it’s probably early, he’s only working with us a few months but it’s been very good so far.

“The whole backroom team has been working hard, and their feedback on how we can improve has been great, we’ve needed it.

“Frank does a lot of the coaching but the other lads, the other selectors, come in and out as well.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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