Cooper looks good to face Mayo in league opener

COLM COOPER is likely to be fit for Saturday night’s NFL opener against Mayo under lights in Austin Stack Park.

Cooper did not play with Dr Crokes in Saturday’s Munster league final against Nemo Rangers or with Kerry against Cork in Sunday’s McGrath Cup decider.

“It was purely precautionary,” said Kerry selector Ger O’Keeffe. “Early in the week Colm complained of being sore and neither his club or county were prepared to risk him.

“We used the McGrath Cup to have a look at a couple of players and from that point of view, it worked fine for us. Adrian O’Connell did well at corner-back while Paul O’Connor took his scores well when introduced for the second half.

“It would have been nice to have won the cup which would have been our first since 1996. Cork looked that bit sharper, but you’ll see an improvement in Kerry when we come back to Páirc Uí Rinn in a fortnight’s time for the league game.

“I was impressed by their number 14 Kevin O’Sullivan. He kicked some great points and is certainly a player to watch. The Cork centre-back Ger Spillane is also a sturdy player and looked very comfortable on the ball. There are interesting times ahead for both counties.”

Cork coach Billy Morgan said he was equally impressed with the display of Spillane. “He appears to be getting better with every outing. Ger hails from a junior football club and there is a lesson there for any player. You don’t have to be a member of a senior club to play with the county.

“I’ve always said Cork have the players to do well in football. I understand our U21s did well in a series of challenge games at the weekend and the senior players involved were excellent. It augurs well for the coming season.”

Meanwhile, Cork could be without John Hayes for their opening league game against Offaly in Tullamore on Sunday. Hayes picked up a calf injury during last Sunday’s All-Ireland club IFC championship semi-final against Inniskeen (Monaghan).

Cork will also be without the Nemo Rangers contingent for the game. The county champions will play Laois U21s in a challenge game in Portlaoise on Saturday to familiarise themselves with the ground and are billed to play Douglas in the county league semi-final on Sunday at a venue to be decided. It’s all part of their build up to the All-Ireland club semi-final against St. Galls (Antrim) on February 19.

On the plus side, Kevin McMahon will be available for selection following Carbery Rangers exit from the All-Ireland club championship.

Meanwhile, experienced Roscommon attacker Stephen Lohan will miss the early stages of the national league with a recurrence of a knee injury.

The Kilbride clubman suffered the latest set-back in the FBD Connacht league semi-final loss to Mayo and will be out for at least six weeks.

“We had hoped it wasn’t as serious but it will be another five weeks before he is back in action,” said Roscommon boss John Maughan.

Roscommon hope to name their team after training tonight to play Limerick in the opening game of the national league at the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday.

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