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Colm Cooper: Kerry training in privacy and Tipperary as a football force

The Kerry attacker also reflects on one of Killarney’s most famous pubs shutting its doors.

Kerry's Colm Cooper
Kerry's Colm Cooper
Image: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

1. Break after Ballymun

Cooper’s quest to land an All-Ireland club title fell short again in February when Dr Crokes lost out to Ballymun Kickhams at the semi-final stage.

The defeat was deeply disappointing after the standards they had previously set on the county and provincial stages.

In the wake of that loss, Cooper opted to step back and take a sojourn from top-level football. He did not return to Kerry colours until late March when sprung from the bench against Cork and made his first start in the last league game against Tyrone in Omagh.

“I felt that I really needed it (the break), just in terms of mentally recharging the batteries and taking a step back. When you come back in with Kerry it’s very full on and it’s very intense.

“I never anticipated taking the whole League off. I wanted to get back at some stage. To be honest, when I was going watching games or watching them on TV I started to miss them again. I had brief chats with Eamon as the league was going on, he didn’t put me under any pressure by saying we need you back.”

2. Munster championship structure

Whoever wins on Sunday between Kerry and Tipperary must dust themselves down afterwards and prepare for a Munster semi-final battle with Waterford next Saturday – June 1st.

The schedule sees one team face two games in six days while there is then a five week gap until the Munster final and Cooper believes it is crazy.

“It just doesn’t match up for me. Surely they can put a structure in place where you’re playing every couple of weeks. I just think a six day turnaround is crazy.

3. Johnny Buckley breaking through

In a difficult league campaign for Kerry, the form of Johnny Buckley shone through at midfield as a source of consistency. In his fifth season at senior level, this is a huge campaign for Buckley as he seeks to finally establish himself in a starting position.

On Sunday he has been selected to line out at midfield and as a clubmate Cooper is well placed to evaluate Buckley.

“We’re hopeful for Johnny. Midfield is more difficult to develop. It takes longer. Certainly, in Kerry, if you look at Daragh O Se and a couple of other midfielders, it’s probably your mid to late 20′s when you actually develop as a midfielder in terms of strength and being at the peak of your powers.

“Johnny seems to have taken a couple of years to get up to the level. But he’s had an excellent League and we’re just hoping he will keep his form going and progress through the summer.”

4. Tipperary becoming challengers

For the fourth successive year Kerry find themselves squaring off against Tipperary in a Munster first round tie.

The rise of football in the Premier county has been striking in recent years on the back of the consistent progress they have displayed at underage level and this game thus takes place amidst a different backdrop.

“I wouldn’t have seen it ten years ago to be honest because Tipperary didn’t have any level of consistency. They might be very good one year but they mightn’t be good again for five years. Looking at their minor teams now they’re in three Munster Finals in a row which is a phenomenal achievement.

“They put us to the pin of our collar in Thurles last year and possibly should have won the game. The day of fearing Kerry as a big force, they’ve got over that, and they don’t feel like a second-tier team any more.”

Kerry’s Colm Cooper with Ciaran McDonald of Tipperary
Pic: INPHO/James Crombie

5. Closing the doors for Kerry training sessions

The recent decision to stage some of Kerry’s training sessions behind closed doors has become a source of hot debate locally.

Cooper understands the arguments of supporters who are accustomed to the tradition of observing the players in action and yet feels there is a need in the demanding modern game for some privacy.

“I can completely understand people’s point of view about being disappointed because you have the likes of Jimmy O’Brien and other fellas who would go up every Tuesday and Thursday night and it’s part of a religion for them going into the Park.

“But I think Eamon’s point was very well made because some nights we need a bit of privacy. The game has been got more intense that you have people watching your training sessions and taking notes.

“Down through the years everyone had the opportunity to go in and watch Kerry, if you were down from Dublin or the north you could come down on a Tuesday or Thursday night. I think that’s where people felt annoyed. That opportunity will still be there. It just won’t be available every night.”

6. The doors being shut on one of Killarney’s most famous football hostelries

The recent news that Jimmy O’Brien’s pub in Killarney is closing down marks a seminal moment as the bar has been a focal point for football in the town, particularly on Fitzgerald Stadium match days.

It’s actually very disappointing,” says Cooper. “I met him a couple of weeks ago and he was telling me that was finishing up.

“It’s mad, everyone I was talking to, and I was talking to people from all over the country, will miss it because it’s one of the homes of GAA in Killarney. It’s disappointing but everything comes to an end, I suppose.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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