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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 21 August, 2019
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Colm Cooper issues warning over state of modern Gaelic football

The Kerry attacker has expressed concerns over the future of the game.

Kerry's Colm Cooper.
Kerry's Colm Cooper.
Image: INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

KERRY’S COLM COOPER has issued a damning indictment of modern Gaelic football as he believes supporters are being turned off by the manner in which the physical side of the game is taking precedent over displays of skill.

Cooper believes the GAA is going to suffer if the trend continues and reckons it is directly related to a drop off in numbers attending high-profile Gaelic football matches.

And the four-time All-Ireland winner,  who weighed in at 10 stone when appearing in his first All-Ireland final in 2002, reckons a comparable player would not be able to start out now in inter-county senior Gaelic football.

“An unwritten requirement at the moment to be a GAA player is you’ve to be 6 foot 4 and built like a tank.

“If you look at most county teams, every guy is lifting big weights, has to be able to run and has to be able to tackle, he’s being taken over the skilful guy that’s 5’10 and slight build.

“When  I started playing, I was 10 stone on the nose in an All Ireland final in Croke Park which is unheard of now. I was only 18/19 at the time. McGeeney hit me a crack of a shoulder and I knew all about it.

“If there was a strong wind, I would have been blown over the bar I’d say. I’m just over 12 stone now, it’s a little bit of a better fighting weight. But I’m not sure would I be able to start out (at 10 stone) really to be honest.

“If I’m a supporter, which I am, I go to matches to see that little bit of brilliance and class. I love to see the competitive stuff as well. But if you take the class, brilliance and elegance of players out, it will be a lesser game. At the moment it’s happening less.

“That’s worrying to be honest. If you take a look at attendances at games now, I think it’s falling. Croke Park are expecting 50,000 on Sunday. Two or three years ago, they’d be expecting 80,000 at it.

“If it continues to go the way it is, you’ll see attendances dropping. You need to safeguard the skills of the game and the skilful players in the game.”

Colm Cooper at the launch yesterday of Lucozade Sport Club Crusade.
Pic: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Cooper admits he can understand why teams have adopted defensive mindsets but is still concerned for the future of the game.

“I completely understand why teams are doing it. But my opinion doesn’t change. If you’re not having the best exponents of the game in terms of their class, it’s a lot less easy on the eye to watch.

“I think young guys growing up if they don’t see the people in their sport produce the brilliance, that’s why they watch television. The unique thing about the GAA, is that while they can all watch Messi and Ronaldo on television, they could watch Michael Murphy, Bernard Brogan or Daniel Goulding and then meet them down the street.

“It’s community based and if they don’t see their own stars on the big day, then I think the GAA is going to suffer.

“My worry from that point of view is would an 18 or 19-year-old now, who is five foot ten, carrying no weight – he might be the most skilful guy in the county, the best player in the county championship – but will he be carried by the county team? I’d have my worries.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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