Kerry selector Mikey Sheehy has described Colm Cooper as “irreplaceable” after it was confirmed a torn cruciate injury will rule him out for the season.
The 30-year-old will undergo an operation on the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in a couple of weeks with an exploratory appointment scheduled for Dublin this Friday.
Dr Ray Moran of Santry’s Sports Injury Clinic conducted yesterday’s scan, which revealed the rupture sustained in the first half of Dr Crokes’ All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Castlebar Mitchels in Portlaoise on Saturday.
Sheehy admitted he feared the worst when he saw Cooper’s reaction after the double challenge as he scored a point before hobbling off the field.
“I feel sorry for the guy himself and his family more than anyone else,” he said. “We’re down the list but he’s irreplaceable. He’s the best footballer I’ve seen. In my 40 whatever years watching football, nobody comes close to him.
“Outside of being a huge loss, there are a lot of genuine GAA people from rival counties disappointed with the news. He’s the type of footballer nobody would have minded paying whatever money to see.
“He was really tuned in for Kerry and Dr Crokes this year. He was appointed Kerry captain by his club again this year and that shows just how highly thought of he is.
“It’s hard to fathom, really. Things had been going great for him in the game and then all of a sudden there was the innocuous challenge.
“I dreaded the worst when I saw how he was after it. I was watching the game on TV but I knew he was in trouble.”
Sheehy knows the injury will frustrate Cooper but expects him to bounce back stronger next season.
“Colm O’Neill must be the role model for guys who have picked up cruciate injuries. He’s one player I really hope has a successful season after all he’s gone through.
“The Gooch will be back. He’s somebody who’s never missed a game through injury. He’s of a greyhound breed and won’t find it hard to look after himself in the recovery.”
Kerry chairman and Cooper’s Dr Crokes clubmate Patrick O’Sullivan said: “It’s obviously hugely disappointing news for Colm, and there’s no doubt it’s a blow for his club and county. We wish him the very best.”
Dr Crokes joint-manager Vince Casey had been keeping his fingers crossed the injury wasn’t a cruciate one.
“You were kind of hoping that it was a bit of cartilage or medial (ligament) damage because he did suffer an impact and it was the first time in his life he had gone off at any level with injury. At that stage, we were thinking of how we were going to battle our way on without him. He walked off and we were hoping it wasn’t the worst. As the man says, it was a bad day that got a whole lot worse.”
Having spoken to Cooper yesterday, it’s Casey’s understanding the player won’t be available to the club later in the year either.
“Talking to himself, he’s been told it’s the full year gone. There’s a good bit of damage done.
“He has good powers of recovery, he’s come back from knocks very well before and hopefully his body will heal quick and he can get back.
“There’s a lot of the year left and when he does come back we hope to be still involved for him to join us.”
Speaking on 2FM’s Game On, Pat Spillane said Cooper’s injury couldn’t come at a worse time for Kerry.
Likening it to removing Lionel Messi from the Barcelona team or Cristiano Ronaldo from the Real Madrid side, Spillane said: “Gooch is Kerry’s talisman, he’s Kerry’s spiritual leader and, look, he’s by a million miles Kerry’s best player and still the best Gaelic player I would suggest in this country.
“It’s coming at a bad time for Kerry because we’ve already lost two of our leaders through retirement, Paul Galvin and Tomás Ó Sé. It’s coming at a time when this is a Kerry team that is in transition and we badly need the experience of the likes of Gooch and the leadership he brings.
“This is like Messi out of Barcelona or Ronaldo out of Real Madrid. Gooch is a once-off. He’s certainly the greatest Gaelic football forward that I’ve ever seen. He’s absolutely brilliant.”
Kerry’s Plan B
Stick with playmaker formation, bringing Declan O’Sullivan back out to his old stomping ground on the 40. It will be a different kind of link player — no point in trying to replicate what Cooper does — but it’s not as if O’Sullivan doesn’t have the game head for such a role.
That, in turn, opens up the option of Kieran Donaghy back in the full-forward line. That depends to some degree on how he comes back from injury.
Try to develop a similar type of ball-playing centre forward like Cooper, one who plays a necklace of tidy passes into small spaces to free up space elsewhere.
The problem with considering James O’Donoghue for that is the impact it would have on the full-forward line. Kieran O’Leary fulfils that role for Dr Crokes on occasions, but whether he is up to it on a consistent basis is debatable.
Something or someone new? Like develop Kenmare’s Stephen O’Brien — by trade, a corner-forward — as an 11. Or get Bryan Sheehan fit and injury-free. Or work with Darran O’Sullivan to develop him further into a hard-running centre forward — fitness permitting.
The latter pair would return Kerry to a more conventional half forward line, with wing forward Jonathan Lyne dropping deeper.
Something more radical? Colm Cooper himself would argue that Marc Ó Sé is the most natural footballer in the Kerry squad. A man who plays regularly, and effectively, on the 40 for Gaeltacht. Now that the Kingdom have uncovered a couple of promising young defenders, with Killian Young still to return, is there a case for turning Ó Sé into a forward, just as Kerry were prepared to make Paul Galvin a centre-back? - Tony Leen
TWEETS ON GOOCH
Devastated for Colm, my heart goes out 2 him, iv no doubt he will b back stronger than ever & doing what he does best #classispermanent— Aidan O Mahony (@GmailMahony) February 17, 2014
Awful news about Colm cooper , will miss seeing him display a bit of magic come championship #gaa— Ciarán Kilkenny (@CKKilkenny93) February 17, 2014
The Gooch could play away with a ruptured ACL and still be the best Footballer in the country.— Adrian Flynn™ (@Panthero84) February 17, 2014
Horrible injury suffered by the Gooch as I well know but no doubt he will come back stronger than ever. Wishing him a speedy recovery!👍— Emlyn Mulligan (@emlynmulligan) February 17, 2014
Very disappointing news re Colm cooper's cruciate wishing him the best with his recovery— Eoin Liston (@EoinListon) February 17, 2014
Terrible luck for #ColmCooper lets hope he will be back in action ASAP.— Paddy O'Rourke (@PaORourke89) February 17, 2014
Terrible news about Colm Copper's injury. Massive blow to Kerry & all GAA fans.— Aaron Kernan (@AaronKernan) February 17, 2014
“Terrible news for gooch really terrible . Recover well man @colmcooper13” Former Mayo player Conor Mortimer (@Conmort)
Gooch just please do not retire after this setback #unbelievable— Stephen Coen (@StephenCoen1) February 17, 2014
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