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Dublin: 5°C Friday 4 December 2020

'He’s going to deserve it' - Gooch on prospect of O'Connor overtaking his scoring record in Killarney

Cillian O’Connor needs five points to pass out Colm Cooper on the all-time championship scoring list.

Mayo forward Cillian O'Connor.
Mayo forward Cillian O'Connor.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

CILLIAN O’CONNOR could become the top scorer in All-Ireland SFC history this weekend as Mayo take on Kerry in the Super 8s. 

O’Connor, still just 27, travels to Killarney just four points shy of Colm Cooper’s all-time scoring record.

Legendary forward Cooper, who retired aged 33, scored 23-283 in his 85 championship games for the Kingdom, an average of 4.1 points per match. O’Connor’s scoring rate is an incredible 6.8 points per game, which gives him 23-279 after 51 games.

Cooper took top-spot by passing fellow Kerry hero Mikey Sheehy, who’d posted 29-205 in his 49 championship appearances in the green and gold. 

“It looks money on that he’s going to do it this weekend in Killarney and he’s going to deserve it,” said Cooper on the RTÉ GAA Podcast.

“What I like about Cillian O’Connor and it gets people a bit mad is he plays on the edge. He gets stuck in a few fracases, he kicks the ball away, he’s a very streetwise, experienced player.

“He calms everyone around him, he sets the tone for this team with his tackling and they are so much a better team when he’s in it.

“My fear for Kerry is we don’t have too many man-markers, if any, and I’m wondering who is going to pick him up, who is going to pick Darragh Coen up. It worries me a little bit because if these guys get space I think they could do serious damage in Killarney.”

O’Connor missed the entire league campaign with a knee injury and made his first start of 2019 against Galway last weekend. He played extremely well, bringing his fellow forwards into the game and kicking six points himself.

His marker Eoghan Kerin was substituted inside the opening half-hour due to O’Connor’s influence and Kerry’s defence will have a tough task to him quiet on Sunday.

Colm Cooper Colm Cooper during his last campaign with Kerry in 2016. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“It’s an incredible record,” continued Cooper. “He’s one of the main reasons why Mayo have played in so many big games, made so many All-Ireland finals and come within a whisker of winning the All-Ireland.

“He’s been captain, an unbelievable player for them and what impressed me about him last week was having missed so much football this year he came back in and was their most influential forward within 20 minutes, laying off the ball and scoring.

“He’s going to go miles past the record given his age. He’s 27 so he’ll play for another three, four, five years if he stays healthy.

“They’re craving an All-Ireland medal. He’s won his All Stars, he’s going to have the scoring record and I’m sure he’d give it all up for an All-Ireland medal.”

8-219 of the Ballintubber man’s tally have come from placed balls, with 15-60 arriving from play.

Cooper added: “He gets a bit of criticism, like when he hit the post with a free in the 2016 All-Ireland final and people were saying they would have won if it went over. I say they certainly wouldn’t have been anywhere near an All-Ireland without him.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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