'He has been a driving force in the dressing-room ' - Crokes defender praises legend Cooper

Dr Crokes' Gavin White ahead of the AIB GAA All-Ireland Senior Football Club Championship Final

All good things must come to an end and few have been better in the context of Gaelic games than the marriage of Colm Cooper's sublime skills with the backdrop of Croke Park and the venue's lush carpet and precipitous stands.

The Gooch has graced HQ like few others before him since his debut year with Kerry in 2002. Nine All-Ireland senior inter-county final appearances are merely the pull quote line on a Jones' Road bill that added an All-Ireland club title with Dr Crokes two years ago.

The maestro is 35 now, three months off another birthday and two years removed from his last stint there in green and gold. Banking game time in club colours is his greatest challenge now as the Killarney giants seek another national title this weekend.

Tony Brosnan filled in for him when he had to withdraw due to an illness ahead of the third round of the Kerry Championship last September and his deputy duly pocketed 1-13 against An Ghaeltacht.

Cooper's role since has been that of an impact sub.

It's one he has performed exceptionally.

Time and again he has appeared off the bench to do some service - in Kerry, in Munster and the last day against Mullinalaghta. Selector Niall O'Callaghan spoke to this paper last November about the maintenance in high standards he continued to set on and off the field.

Gavin White has echoed those words of praise ahead of the meeting with Corofin on Sunday which may well be the last time we are afforded the opportunity to witness one of the game's greatest ever exponents grace the game's most iconic cathedral.

“I’d be hoping its not his last day,” said the Crokes and Kerry defender. “I’d be hoping Colm would stay on for us but he has given massive punch from the bench in the last few games - and even off the pitch his knowledge of football is through the roof. He has been a driving force in the dressing-room in the last few years and even this year when he is not starting.”

All six of the Crokes starting forwards scored against Mullinalaghta in the semi-final but the dismissal of Johnny Buckley to a straight card after just 20 minuets was yet further evidence of the strength in depth and mental fortitude of Pat O'Shea's side.

The Longford side pulled three points clear of the favourites shortly after that body blow before Crokes recovered their equilibrium and fashioned what was an ultimately comfortable with White ultimately awarded the man of the match honours.

His vote went elsewhere on the day.

“The one that stuck out to me was David Shaw. He has only played a handful of senior club games for Crokes and for him to come out to midfield in such a big game and to play as well as he did is a credit to him, a credit to his own personality.

“Everyone kind of stood up to the plate that day. I don't think it's fair to point it all at me. It was brilliant to get that performance

out of us and how we were able to come over any obstacle that came in front of us. We were very determined to get over it and to get to Croke Park.”

Being able to avail of Buckley's services is an added cherry on top.

Like the rest of his colleagues, White was surprised to see the Kerry player sent to the line for what he felt to be an innocuous incident and his successful appeal adds hugely to the challenge Crokes can offer Corofin in a game of two bona fide club heavyweights.

The pair met in at the semi-final stage two years ago when, having lost at that juncture three times between 2012 and 2014, the Kerry side claimed a nine-point win and followed it up with a narrow defeat of Derry's Slaughtneil in the decider.

A more balanced affair is expected this time between two sides who have won plaudits for the attacking nature of their football. Between them they have recorded 17-119 in five provincial ties and their two All-Ireland semi-finals.

“I don’t think there will be any surprise if it is a high-scoring game,” White agreed. “Both of us are fairly attacking from all corners of the pitch. Being a defender its a massive challenge for us to try and keep Corofin’s score down as low as possible.

“It’s a massive challenge, marking some of those Corofin players. With the capabilities they have they can seriously hurt you if you are not on your game, especially in Croke Park, but we’re up for the challenge and hopefully we can keep it down as low as we can.”

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