In his debut column for the Irish Examiner tomorrow, Kerry legend Colm Cooper reveals how Gaelic football “saved” him during his annus horribilis in 2014, writes John Fogarty.
The recently-retired 33-year-old sustained cruciate ligament damage and a broken kneecap when scoring a point in Dr Crokes’ All-Ireland club semi-final defeat to Castlebar Mitchels in February.
However, much to his own surprise, Cooper was asked by Éamonn Fitzmaurice to tog out for Kerry’s All-Ireland semi-final replay win over Mayo six months later.
After the death of his mother Maureen earlier that month, the manager’s call was an incredible lift. “The week after the Galway quarter-final, my mother had died,” he writes in his new weekly column. “At a moment you’re thinking, ‘what else can go wrong in my life?’ Football was a tonic for me.
“The day after the funeral, I trained with Kerry, which was a surprise to some. But I needed it, I needed to be part of something, to be in that environment. A belonging. Kerry were on a journey, a crusade that summer, I knew I couldn’t contribute on the field of play, but if I can be around the place, maybe help someone in some moment?
“Within three weeks of burying my mother I had gone to togging out in an All-Ireland semi-final in Limerick. Then it turns out to be a game for the ages, Kerry winning a titanic battle and heading for an All-Ireland final. The shot of adrenaline that gave me...”
Cooper consulted with knee specialist Dr Ray Moran, brother of Kevin, after the game and ensured he wasn’t put in a situation where he would be told by Moran that he couldn’t play in the final against Donegal.
“I was accentuating all the positives and wondering what Fitzy had in mind for me. They say the hope is what kills you. Three years ago, at the worst moment in my career, it was the hope that kept me breathing.”
Read Colm Cooper's first Irish Examiner column in full in Saturday's Weekend Sport.