Bill Cooper’s involvement with Cork came to a sudden halt a few years ago. The Youghal hurler was gathering momentum as a hard-working half-forward when his body betrayed him.
“I was involved in 2010 and 2011, but I got a back injury and was out for 14 months, so I came back in 2014. I had a bulging disc in my back. I was crippled with shooting pains in the leg and all of that. They wouldn’t operate because it’s tricky and they felt I was too young.
“Like any injury, you’d be fearing the worst. Wear and tear caused it — I was serving my time as a carpenter and training hard. I went back to college to study quantity surveying, though.”
Now he’s back, and rampaging around the middle to help make room for the sharpshooters around him.
“Like a lot of half-forwards, I’m there to work hard for the team rather than having a specific role. But that hard work, those principles, are part of every position.
“(Conor Lehane, Seamus Harnedy), they’re very good, Luke O’Farrell has been very good, we have forwards with pace. We’re a good team if we can get it right, we’ve just been struggling the last few years to put performances together.”
That was true of the league, where Cork needed a win over Galway to preserve Division 1A status after five defeats.
“It was a good way to end but it doesn’t paper over the cracks.
“It’s just about working hard and trying to improve our weaknesses.
“It’s only 70 minutes hurling, you can’t read too much into it either. We know we’re a long way behind the Tipperarys and the Kilkennys, Waterfords and the other teams, we’re under no illusions about the amount of ground we need to make up.
“But we got confidence from it. It was a do or die game, so we got a little bit out of that, but we know we have a lot of work to do yet.”
He’s full of praise for coach Frank Flannery and the rest of the Cork backroom.
“He’s been very good. A great coach, we had him with our club (Youghal) in 2009 and he’s really putting his stamp on it. That said, it’s probably early, he’s only working with us a few months but it’s been very good so far. The whole backroom team has been working hard, and their feedback on how we can improve has been great, we’ve needed it. Frank does a lot of the coaching but the other lads, the other selectors come in and out as well.”
Tipperary have a league win over Cork in their locker, of course.
“That wasn’t a dead rubber to us. We were looking to win the game and they were far too good for us. In that sense we’ve a lot of ground to make up — they opened us up at times. They were very good and we haven’t had too much joy against them in recent years, so it’s going to be a tough ask. We’ve played so many games there (Thurles) that we know the venue well, but it’s still home advantage to Tipp.”
Cork are being written off, but that doesn’t bothe Cooper: “I wouldn’t read too much into it. I just think we’re concentrating on ourselves. We know we have strengths in the group too, we’re not doom and gloom by any means. We have a tough task ahead of us but we’ll be looking to give a performance.”
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