GAA Football

Kerry legend Colm Cooper calls time on inter-county career

Kerry's Colm Cooper will go down as one of the all-time greats

NOW that the announcement that many in Kerry expected but didn’t really want to hear has been made.

The Gooch, Kerry legend Colm Cooper, has made the decision to walk away from the inter-county limelight.

A significant 15-year period in the life of the Kerry senior football team is over.

While many will remember everything he has done since the day of his first unheralded appearance in a Kerry senior jersey back in 2002, in Limerick against Laois in the National League, not many will remember the time he first walked into the inter-county spotlight.

The Kingdom was a bit unsure of itself after Maurice Fitzgerald decided to pack in the inter-county scene after 2001 and while Cooper didn’t achieve the same reverence as the new Kerry selector instantly, the county knew it had someone to assume Fitzgerald’s mantle with time.

He had featured but wasn’t the standout Minor player in the Kerry sides of 2000 and 2001.

Declan Quill and Declan O’Sullivan respectively were arguably more well regarded at that level but Cooper’s skill and footballing brain were still forming at the time.

Indeed timing appeared to be everything for Gooch in making his breakthrough.

He acknowledged that had it been a few years later when the emphasis on muscle and physique came into vogue his genius might well have been overlooked on the biggest stage.

Armagh’s second-half surge in the 2002 All-Ireland final robbed him of a dream debut year with Ronan Clarke getting the award of 'Young Player of the Year' ahead of the Dr Crokes player.

The debate about how he never was awarded the GAA’s 'Player of the Year accolade' will rage as much as how Brian Whelahan was the 1994 Hurler of the Year but never got on the All-Star Hurling team that year.

But Gooch didn’t need any personal awards to let everyone else know how good he was in their own minds.

The rise of Tyrone meant that his first All-Ireland medal would not come until 2004.

His second All-Ireland medal in 2006 saw Kerry come through a bit of a firestorm within the county after he was installed as captain during the Championship with Declan O’Sullivan’s loss of form.

Although O’Sullivan got the captain’s armband back for the final annihilation of Mayo, he still had the graciousness to ask Cooper to accept Sam Maguire with him.

It was a show of collective unity after a summer rumoured to be one of internal unrest.

The following year, 2007 was the year you would feel that Gooch deserved the 'Player of the Year' gong the most.

In 2009 he overcame a rather high-profile dropping before the Antrim game alongside Tomas Ó Sé for seeking a release from the pressure of a tortuous run through the Qualifiers for the Kingdom an event which made national headlines.

All was forgiven instantly when the team reached Croke Park and Gooch scored the first goal in a quarter-final trouncing of Dublin that now stands as the county’s last Championship victory over the Metropolitans.

His last All-Ireland medal on the field of play would be in 2009, with a 0-16 to 1-9 Kerry victory over Cork at Croke.

Despite scoring a great goal in the 2011 final as captain, Dubs goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton strode forward to take the free that has led to Dublin’s dominance of the years since.

His role in 2014, after the injury in the All-Ireland Club Championship semi-final that robbed him of a year of play time, was one more of inspiration as Kerry bamboozled Donegal in the bright sunshine that day.

With his stated desire to win an All-Ireland Club title with Dr Crokes achieved two and a half weeks ago many wondered would he want to continue with the high powered demands of the inter-county scene.

The answer is in the negative.

Much like Henry Shefflin two years ago after a similar All-Ireland Club success, Gooch departs the main stage with an entire country in awe of his achievements.

It’s not the last time people in the Kingdom will see of him of course; attendances at county and district matches might just increase with his more regular presence in the black and amber of Crokes.

But the country says goodbye to an inter-county forward to match both Fitzgerald and Mikey Sheehy in contemporary lore by Kerry natives.

GAA Football

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