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Dublin: 8°C Wednesday 23 September 2020

Dublin monkey off Kerry's back and the modest Cooper is irreplaceable

Donnchadh Walsh savoured Kerry ending their losing run against Dublin.

Kerry players celebrate yesterday's league final victory.
Kerry players celebrate yesterday's league final victory.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

WHEN DEAN ROCK’S free struck the upright at the culmination of yesterday’s absorbing league final in Croke Park, Kerry had finally done it.

They had staved off the challenge of Dublin, ensuring there would be no repeat of last month’s frantic finale in Tralee when Dublin pegged them back to draw level.

Paul Mannion hit the levelling point that night and his goal yesterday nearly ignited another stirring Dublin revival.

But Kerry this time protected their winning position.

“There’s a good bit of relief, definitely a monkey off our back,” admits Kerry forward Donnchadh Walsh.

“Even though we always had the confidence that we’re good enough and they are beatable. It’s nice just to confirm that and put that to bed.

“They’re going to be a different animal again come the summer time. At least now we know we’re up there with them and on any day we can beat them. That’s a nice feeling.”

Walsh can see reason in the argument that Kerry had been affected by the amount they invested into clashes with Dublin.

“You probably saw it in our performance against Dublin down in Tralee, it was one of our better ones.

“But then we felt we were very flat the following week against Cavan. We were very lucky to get a draw up there.

“In a way we had such emotional and physical energy put into the Dublin game, that it affected our performance then the following week.

“So in a way we almost did get obsessed with that game and even the come down afterwards affected us. It was always something we worked on not to get too obsessed with.”

Kerry head to the summer with the addition of a football league trophy but the loss of a marquee forward.

32-year-old Walsh soldiered with Colm Cooper from their days as minor players in a 2001 All-Ireland semi-final, up until Kerry’s senior campaign ending last August against Dublin.

Paul Galvin, Colm Cooper and Donnchadh Walsh Paul Galvin, Colm Cooper and Donnchadh Walsh before the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

For all the plaudits that Cooper received for his skills on the pitch, Walsh pinpoints other quality.

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“I had the pleasure of rooming with him in 2013 and he’s just such a humble guy. We’re all in awe of him for so long.

“He’d have a few quiet words with you and it’s the advice that I’d remember him for. He was just so giving of his time. As long as you were playing with Gooch, you were on his side

“If he saw someone else in a better position he’d never look for the limelight at all. That was his class. And he he had it on and off the field. That’ll be what I’ll remember him for. Just that modest guy who just oozed class.

“He didn’t look for the limelight. He had an insatiable appetite for winning. I think when he felt that maybe he couldn’t perform and help the team to win as he would have liked, I think that was why he maybe decided to call it a day.

“The body was just not allowing him to contribute as much. Now, he still could have contributed off the field in dressing-rooms and coming in for maybe five or ten minutes. I absolutely would have bitten your right hand off for him to come in and do that.

“There will be no replacing him. But I think he’s left his legacy in that he’s definitely contributed to my football career, (and) to a dozen or more fellas inside in the Kerry camp at the moment.”

The departure of Cooper, coupled with the retirements of Aidan O’Mahony and Marc Ó Sé over the winter, reflects the changing nature of the Kerry squad.

“When Gooch announced his retirement, I was thinking, ‘Jeez, make sure Donaghy comes back now, so I’m not the oldest inside there’,” laughs Walsh.

“So it does feel a bit different but I still feel good. When the body feels good, you feel young.

“I don’t consider myself the oldie inside there. It’s grand, I only came in in 2007. That’s the evolution of teams.”


Littlewoods Ireland today launched their first year as sponsor of GAA Go Games Provincial Days in Croke Park.

The GAA Go Games Provincial Days is an initiative which will see 7,000 children take part in mini versions of hurling and football blitzes over the course of two weeks in April.

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Fintan O'Toole

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