All-Ireland winning manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice says it will be next March before Colm Cooper lines out in the green and gold.
Cooper sat out the season as he recovered from his cruciate ligament rupture and the Kerry boss is adamant the 31-year old forward not be rushed back.
“He is back working in the gym. He is back running. He is in good shape. He has made great progress with his knee, but he isn’t ready to play football yet,” Fitzmaurice told Kerry Radio’s Terrace Talk.
“I would be hoping that by March next year Colm will be back ready to play football. He’ll feature in some of the league games, in the March, April window to give him a bit of football.
“That will be like having a new player because Colm is only itching to get back into it. He is in a position where he is going to be able to really drive it on and drive us on next year. In soccer terms it is going to be like getting a new signing getting someone like Colm back in. It is fantastic.”
The Kerry manager is optimistic there is another season in experienced campaigners Aidan O’Mahony (34) and Declan O’Sullivan (31).
“In all sports, especially the GAA, people are always rushing to retire. There is a lot of talk about Declan O’Sullivan at the moment. Declan is only 31. Kieran Donaghy is only 31. They are young men still. I know the likes of Declan has a lot of miles on the clock but they are young men really.
“Aidan [O’Mahony] had a fantastic season. Since I have come in as manager he has been a major driving force among the players.
“Some fellas will need a bit of time off during the league and we will do that. It gives us an opportunity to give some of the younger fellas a go.”
Fitzmaurice added: “With regard to the minors, we will look at them. There is definitely a few of them in our radar, but at the same time because the U21 is played early in the year we will probably look at leaving most of those U21’s with Darragh Ó Sé early in the year.”
Meanwhile, county board chairman Patrick O’Sullivan last night confirmed Kerry would field a team in next year’s McGrath Cup. The All-Ireland champions are travelling to South Africa on December 29 for a team holiday and won’t be returning home until January 10, missing the opening two rounds of the competition. O’Sullivan said it is likely a development squad will be assembled while Fitzmaurice’s charges are overseas.
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