ANY Kerry supporters holding out hope that 2010 was a mere blip for their senior footballers would do well to heed Colm Cooper, who warned that the Kingdom could be facing a number of years in transition.
Jack O’Connor’s side claimed a Munster title this summer but the loss of so many key players from their 2009 All-Ireland winning panel finally caught up with them in the defeat to Down on the August Bank Holiday weekend.
Cooper said yesterday that the rebuilding process could take two seasons or more and agreed that O’Connor’s acceptance of a new three-year term was effectively an admission that a long road lies ahead.
“Jack built a team that had been so successful and now realises that he may need to build another team. That doesn’t happen overnight.
“There are decent players in Kerry and I’m sure Jack will be trying to bring them into the senior set-up. You don’t know how long it is going to take but by him taking on the three years he feels that this is a project that is not going to be sorted in 12 months.
“He may be building for a couple of years down the line. As you know, the expectation in Kerry is that they want All-Irelands every year.
“That’s the environment we live in and we understand. But people have to realise that you can’t click your fingers and bring in guys to replace the quality that was there.
“We just have to give it time.”
The future may be uncertain, then, but the presence of players like Cooper, Paul Galvin, Declan O’Sullivan, Kieran Donaghy and Tomás and Marc O Sé means they will be amongst the favourites for silverware in 2011.
Kerry’s season may have ended in disappointment but it was one in which Cooper himself returned to his best form after a 2009 campaign in which he all too often appeared to be short on confidence and hunger.
“I was enjoying my football very much (this year). The Munster championship went fine for me. We had two tough ones with Cork and a good tussle with Limerick in the final as well. I enjoyed the football and the training. The hunger seemed to be there but we just weren’t good enough as a group in Kerry and we came up short.”
His year’s work is not yet over, although he says the International Rules “just has no appeal for me” after the disgraceful treatment meted out by the Australians in the 2005 series in which he was involved. His focus right now is centred squarely on Sunday week’s county final against Austin Stacks when Crokes will hope to consign three recent decider defeats – all to South Kerry – to history.
Cooper was just 17 and one of five brothers on the Crokes team that won that sixth championship at the start of the millennium, when they defeated An Ghaeltacht.
“We feel this year we’ve played well and improved as the championship has gone on. We’re just hoping now there’s more improvement to get us over the line. We beat South Kerry at the weekend and that was a big one. They’ve been our nemesis. They’re a quality side so to get over them was great but at the end of the day there are no medals given out for semi-finals. We’re where we want to be and we have to get over the line.”
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