Brendan Rodgers relishes prospect of keeping legend Colm Cooper quiet

Brendan Rodgers would welcome the opportunity to mark Colm Cooper in today’s AIB All-Ireland club football final.

Brendan Rodgers relishes prospect of keeping legend Colm Cooper quiet

Faced with one of the greatest forwards to ever grace Croke Park, the Slaughtneil and Derry fullback insists he “wouldn’t be shy about marking him”, yet reveals that ambition without a trace of arrogance.

The 22-year-old likes a challenge and was almost disappointed the semi-final win over St Vincent’s passed him by, with Chrissy McKaigue’s remarkable taming of Diarmuid Connolly the obvious highlight.

While Dr Crokes’ possess other threats such as Daithi Casey and Kieran O’Leary, it’s clear where — and against whom — Rodgers wants to be stationed.

“When you’re in an All- Ireland final you expect to be playing against good players and I’d be fortunate if I get to mark a good player, that’s the way I see it.

“It’s a nice bit of belief that somebody trusts you to mark a quality player and gives you that bit of buzz to get up to that level of the game and not get roasted.

“The way it works is nobody really puts their hand up to mark anybody. We leave that solely up to Mickey and the rest of the boys, but I like the challenge of marking the best players.

“That’s how you become the best yourself and how you get the best out of yourself.

“If I do get the opportunity, I’ll definitely have to focus on my game because he’s definitely one of the best in Ireland at the minute, if not ever.

“And he’s definitely got the accolades to back it up.

“But if it’s not me, there’s plenty of others we need to watch out for, so we need to be at our best.”

With an All-Ireland title at stake, no motivation should be needed.

Crokes’ have had several near misses while Slaughtneil are spurred on by the painful memory of an underwhelming display in the 2015 final defeat by Corofin.

Cooper is chasing an All-Ireland club medal to complete the set and put the finishing touches on his stellar CV.

History will be made regardless of which way it goes.

“In sport it can be a bit cruel sometimes that people don’t get the accolades that reflect their careers,” says Rodgers.

“It would be nice to see him complete the collection but I wouldn’t want to see it at the expense of myself or our team or our club.

“No way would we be willing to give it up just to write a bit of history for him.

“That’s not how it goes. Sport can be cruel and not let people achieve what they want to achieve.

“It’s the same all over the country.

“Take Mattie Forde of Wexford, I thought he was one of the best forwards to play in Croke Park yet he never won anything much.

“I know they (Dr Crokes) have been on the bad side of a few campaigns but getting beaten twice in an All-Ireland final is not pretty either.

“It’s going to be really tough to get over the line, but you need belief and I definitely trust our team to get the job done.”

Rodgers says he “definitely” intends to continue playing hurling and football for the club next year.

The experience of becoming the first Derry club to win an Ulster senior hurling title last year has stayed with him, even if the subsequent All-Ireland semi-final hammering by Cuala was a chastening afternoon.

That killed the club’s All-Ireland treble dream, but the double is still on after the camogie success two weeks ago, and Rodgers found positives to take from the hurlers’ defeat heading into today’s season finale.

“It (defeat) helped in one way because this is probably the most time we’ve had to prepare for any one game.

“If we’d have had three it would have been outstanding, but maybe the defeat of the hurling created that reality that you can’t believe everything people tell you. It keeps you grounded.

“It was disappointing and it will be on people’s minds next year, but that’s what makes you better.”

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