Cooper urges against Kerry ‘exodus’

If left unchanged, the Kerry side that lined out against Dublin in September’s All-Ireland semi-final would have an average age of well over 28 next summer.

Colm Cooper, 31 in June, is one of those tipping the age profile upwards though he urges strongly against any ‘mass exodus’ of players in the coming weeks to rival Cork’s flight of legends.

When the new season begins, Cork will be without six genuine household names, five of whom have retired while Ciarán Sheehan has taken up an Aussie Rules contract.

At present, Tomás Ó Sé is the only Kerry veteran to have called it quits.

Behind him, younger brother Marc, Paul Galvin, Eoin Brosnan, Kieran Donaghy and Aidan O’Mahony are among a group of famous names considered elder statesmen.

From his perspective, Cooper said events in Cork have taken him by surprise and believes there’s no need for such a shedding of veteran talent across the border in his own county.

“I think it’s the amount of Cork players that have gone is the biggest surprise,” said Cooper. “I suppose Ciarán Sheehan is not a retirement, he’s gone off to Australia exploring a different adventure.

“I’m surprised they all came together. Hopefully we won’t see that in Kerry. Tomás has obviously made up his mind and finished up but as of yet I haven’t heard of any of the guys going or thinking about going. Hopefully there won’t be a mass exodus.

“I chat with Eoin (Brosnan). I think where he’s at at the moment is very much similar to myself — the club is the most important thing. But he has a decision to make in the coming weeks. He has a big decision to make but I wouldn’t try to sway him. He is old enough to make up his own mind but he’s given great service and whatever he decides to do, he’s well entitled to do it.”

The more positive outlook is that four of the six Kerry backs that played against Dublin were 25 or under while James O’Donoghue, their new All Star attacker, is only 23.

Perhaps the most exciting thought is that Tommy Walsh, an All-Ireland medallist and still only 25, may be home in 12 months and available for duty. He revealed last month that, ‘As of now, I’ll be coming home’ when his Aussie Rules contract with Sydney Swans expires at the end of 2014 after an injury-plagued oval ball career.

“I’d nearly fly over for him now myself,” smiled Cooper, who admitted Walsh could have been the man to edge them to victory in their classic contest with Dublin.

“If you had Tommy, with his experience and his strength, it would have given more options, he unquestionably would have given us an extra 10 or 15% that might have got us over the line. You could play Tommy in a variety of positions, he’s so big and strong. With full-time training and a couple of years behind him, I’d say he has probably become more athletic than he was.

“He could give you options in the middle of the field, you could play him at wing-forward, on top of the square. Anywhere from midfield up he’d give you huge options.”

Cooper himself has some decisions to make in the coming weeks and months. His club, Dr Crokes, face Tipperary’s Loughmore-Castleiney in the AIB Munster club semi-final on Saturday as favourites not just for victory but for provincial and All-Ireland success. With so many miles on the clock, Cooper could do with a quiet winter but as that’s unlikely, he’ll probably come to an arrangement with Fitzmaurice to miss a chunk of Kerry’s Allianz League campaign instead.

“Knowing Eamonn, he is probably looking for me to be fresh coming into May/June, that sort of time, not to be hitting the wall or anything like that,” said ‘Gooch’, in line to retain the county captaincy. “It’s just about managing it. That will really depend on how the Crokes thing goes. We are playing this weekend and could be beaten and you already have six weeks of a break then, maybe more.

“If not, you could be training right through Christmas with Crokes and going to an All-Ireland semi-final. It’s really about managing it from game to game and see if we do keep going that there’s some sort of break.”


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