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"He’s pushing my buttons now... ‘Come on to f**k Gooch, we’ll do a bit extra'"

In this extract from his autobiography, Colm Cooper pays tribute to the attitude and passion of Kerry team-mate Declan O’Sullivan.

Colm Cooper congradulates Declan O'Sullivan.
Colm Cooper congradulates Declan O'Sullivan.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Updated at 20.25

THE FOLLOWING PASSAGE is an extract from ‘Gooch: The Autobiography’ by Colm Cooper with Vincent Hogan.

There’s a man who’s been carrying me through a lot of bad days now and I don’t even realise he’s doing it.

We all know this is Seamus Moynihan’s last year and there’s no one we’d like to recognise more with a proper send-off.

In my time as a Kerry footballer he’s never been captain but he’s always been a leader.

Without me even realising it, he’s pushing my buttons now.

‘Come on to fuck Gooch, we’ll do a bit extra . . .’

That’s the way it is with Moynihan. He leads, you follow.

He starts collecting me on Wednesdays at 6am to head up to Ger Hartmann’s clinic in Limerick, swinging into Henry Street before eight for some core work with Ger Keane before getting some physio. The way it runs, we’re back in Killarney by 11. Moynihan’s had a word on my behalf in the bank. ‘Look, we’re trying to get this fella right . . .’

And, in Kerry, that man’s word is like a bishop’s decree. So nobody’s asking questions. Maybe they’re still giving me space because of my father, so I can swing into work three hours later than I should. And in my innocence, all I think at the time is ‘Fuck it, Seamus is killing me here’.

We beat Cork in the All-Ireland semi without ever seriously entertaining the idea of defeat. There’s a rhythm to this rivalry now and it’s one, I suspect, that’s beginning to send them crackers.

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Declan’s pushing hard now too, we can all see that. When I think of the hardest bastards I’ve played football with, he’d have to be right up there. The way he’s held himself together since being jeered off the field in Cork is a monument to that toughness. In some ways, he’s gone to ground. Just put the head down and held his counsel.

But every night in the park, the hurt is in his body language. He’s driving himself into everything with a message that says one thing only: I’ll get myself back on that fucking team if it kills me.

It’s not sour the way he does it, not remotely. I mean, I can see him geeing up Donaghy some nights, telling him he’s ‘flying’.

The weekend before the final we head to Cork to get away from the crowds. Enemy territory for the space to breathe. Our last practice game in Páirc Uí Chaoimh is full of edge and contrariness, and at one point Paul Galvin and Listowel’s Brendan Guiney end up wrestling on the ground. Jack is smiling.

When the team is named, Declan’s in for Brossie. I’m gutted personally for my clubmate, but Jack isn’t pulling any South Kerry favours here. I’ve been playing with Declan from U14 up and I know that when he’s on it, there’s nobody will live with him. They have this expression in Kerry when passing judgement on a young player: ‘Has he the stuff?’

Declan O’Sullivan has it in spades.

Gooch: The Autobiography by Colm Cooper with Vincent Hogan is published by Transworld Ireland. More info here.

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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