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Kingdom’s hitman making no excuses

Colm Cooper

HE’S a hard man to pin down. Michael Moynihan tried to get a hold of Colm Cooper’s jersey, but the Kerryman was far too smooth.

THEY say diplomacy is the art of handling a porcupine without disturbing the quills. If that's true, the Department of Foreign Affairs could do worse than signing up Colm Cooper for its trickier negotiations.

Remember Billy Morgan's anger about Kerry in the NFL a couple of weeks ago? "Billy was obviously angry over the game, he was probably disappointed," says Cooper.

"I'm not too sure what he was talking about, probably that we were over-robust, but that's fine, that's his opinion. I don't think it was a dirty game at all, I don't think it ever spilled over at any stage, both teams were keen on getting the win."

What about those Northern oafs who keep winning All-Irelands, the lads who flattened Gooch off the ball last September? "If you look at the northern teams, they've got fantastic players, the likes of Steven McDonnell and Stephen O'Neill. They're going out to play their brand of football and they're sticking to their strengths.

"What that may be doing is making it hard for other teams to play against them, and they're reaping the benefits of that.

"My attitude about the All-Ireland final is that we just didn't play up to scratch on the day. We had the opportunities to draw level, and if we'd done that who knows how it might have gone, but Tyrone played very well on the day. They deserved it. It was like 'we blew it' in certain respects. We had a tough league campaign, we had a tricky Munster final and even though we beat Cork by three points we were never really comfortable in that game. Once we got to the All-Ireland final we thought it'd be great, it was so long since a team had retained the Sam Maguire, but we just came up that little bit short on the day. All you can do is get back on the horse you've different things to concentrate on, like the club. This year already we've had different players, U21s and minors, coming in to freshen things up."

Such as? Give us a few names to build up and tear down.

"Kieran O'Leary from my own club, Crokes, he's a very good player, Paul O'Connor of Kenmare, Darren O'Sullivan was involved last year, Padraig Reidy was a minor two years ago ... but these are all young lads, they're not going to fill Dara Ó

Cinnéide's place it's more about grooming them to do that down the line. Dara's going to be a huge loss. He was there ten years, won it all, winning captain, and he'll be very hard to replace. He knew everyone well, he was very approachable and everyone respected him. He'll leave a gap, but that gap should inspire players to say 'that's the level I want to get to, to become a leading, inspirational figure for Kerry'. I hope we have the players to do that."

He's talking at the announcement of his sponsorship deal with Lucozade Sport it means he won't have a GPA-endorsed Club Energise bottle in his gear bag. Obviously that was contentious: "The main priority for me is to keep improving my game, and be the absolute best I can be on the field. The GPA is all about the players, and players' rights, and I'm a very committed player. I don't feel any conflict with the association at all. This deal with Lucozade Sport was something I felt was both important and right for me as a player, and I'm looking forward to working with them."

Drat. The diplomatic front slips only when Cooper points out that making the senior set-up isn't the end, just the end of the beginning for young players; their work is only starting.

The Killarney man shows the reality of intercounty life: "You don't know how lads are going to progress, how they're going to react. Some players come in but don't do what's necessary to get to that next level. From my point of view in 2002 I was naïve things went well for me and I was thinking 'this is great, it'll be like this every year', but 2003 was a bit of an eye-opener.

"Once you get to the senior set-up it's up to the player and his own ambition. A player has to decide if he's going to get stronger, or work on kicking with his weaker leg. You have to do that if you're going to get to the next level, and the likes of Tyrone and Armagh have done that; it's our ambition in Kerry to get to that level, and a little past it, if we can."

For Cooper that means play-making as much as scoring, a conscious decision that was taken last year.

"When things went well in 2004 we knew I was going to be tightly marked, and we felt if that happened, and I couldn't score, that I might contribute by setting up scores. We tried that we tried to bring it into everyone's game and it worked well in different games.

"When people look at Croke Park it looks like a huge open space, but at times it doesn't play that way. It's difficult to see unless you're in the situation yourself you've got a split-second to decide whether to lay it off, take on your man or go for a score. Otherwise you'll just be phased out of it. It's very difficult."

It's got to be easier for an established star, though.

"I still don't feel established, I think I'm on an upward learning curve."

Diplomatic until the end unless he's being honest and still has room for improvement. That's bad news for opponents no diplomat could sweeten.

 

Kingdom’s hitman making no excuses

Colm Cooper

HE’S a hard man to pin down. Michael Moynihan tried to get a hold of Colm Cooper’s jersey, but the Kerryman was far too smooth.

THEY say diplomacy is the art of handling a porcupine without disturbing the quills. If that's true, the Department of Foreign Affairs could do worse than signing up Colm Cooper for its trickier negotiations.

Remember Billy Morgan's anger about Kerry in the NFL a couple of weeks ago? "Billy was obviously angry over the game, he was probably disappointed," says Cooper.

"I'm not too sure what he was talking about, probably that we were over-robust, but that's fine, that's his opinion. I don't think it was a dirty game at all, I don't think it ever spilled over at any stage, both teams were keen on getting the win."

What about those Northern oafs who keep winning All-Irelands, the lads who flattened Gooch off the ball last September? "If you look at the northern teams, they've got fantastic players, the likes of Steven McDonnell and Stephen O'Neill. They're going out to play their brand of football and they're sticking to their strengths.

"What that may be doing is making it hard for other teams to play against them, and they're reaping the benefits of that.

"My attitude about the All-Ireland final is that we just didn't play up to scratch on the day. We had the opportunities to draw level, and if we'd done that who knows how it might have gone, but Tyrone played very well on the day. They deserved it. It was like 'we blew it' in certain respects. We had a tough league campaign, we had a tricky Munster final and even though we beat Cork by three points we were never really comfortable in that game. Once we got to the All-Ireland final we thought it'd be great, it was so long since a team had retained the Sam Maguire, but we just came up that little bit short on the day. All you can do is get back on the horse you've different things to concentrate on, like the club. This year already we've had different players, U21s and minors, coming in to freshen things up."

Such as? Give us a few names to build up and tear down.

"Kieran O'Leary from my own club, Crokes, he's a very good player, Paul O'Connor of Kenmare, Darren O'Sullivan was involved last year, Padraig Reidy was a minor two years ago ... but these are all young lads, they're not going to fill Dara Ó

Cinnéide's place it's more about grooming them to do that down the line. Dara's going to be a huge loss. He was there ten years, won it all, winning captain, and he'll be very hard to replace. He knew everyone well, he was very approachable and everyone respected him. He'll leave a gap, but that gap should inspire players to say 'that's the level I want to get to, to become a leading, inspirational figure for Kerry'. I hope we have the players to do that."

He's talking at the announcement of his sponsorship deal with Lucozade Sport it means he won't have a GPA-endorsed Club Energise bottle in his gear bag. Obviously that was contentious: "The main priority for me is to keep improving my game, and be the absolute best I can be on the field. The GPA is all about the players, and players' rights, and I'm a very committed player. I don't feel any conflict with the association at all. This deal with Lucozade Sport was something I felt was both important and right for me as a player, and I'm looking forward to working with them."

Drat. The diplomatic front slips only when Cooper points out that making the senior set-up isn't the end, just the end of the beginning for young players; their work is only starting.

The Killarney man shows the reality of intercounty life: "You don't know how lads are going to progress, how they're going to react. Some players come in but don't do what's necessary to get to that next level. From my point of view in 2002 I was naïve things went well for me and I was thinking 'this is great, it'll be like this every year', but 2003 was a bit of an eye-opener.

"Once you get to the senior set-up it's up to the player and his own ambition. A player has to decide if he's going to get stronger, or work on kicking with his weaker leg. You have to do that if you're going to get to the next level, and the likes of Tyrone and Armagh have done that; it's our ambition in Kerry to get to that level, and a little past it, if we can."

For Cooper that means play-making as much as scoring, a conscious decision that was taken last year.

"When things went well in 2004 we knew I was going to be tightly marked, and we felt if that happened, and I couldn't score, that I might contribute by setting up scores. We tried that we tried to bring it into everyone's game and it worked well in different games.

"When people look at Croke Park it looks like a huge open space, but at times it doesn't play that way. It's difficult to see unless you're in the situation yourself you've got a split-second to decide whether to lay it off, take on your man or go for a score. Otherwise you'll just be phased out of it. It's very difficult."

It's got to be easier for an established star, though.

"I still don't feel established, I think I'm on an upward learning curve."

Diplomatic until the end unless he's being honest and still has room for improvement. That's bad news for opponents no diplomat could sweeten.