BY KIERAN McCARTHY
COLM Cooper insists it would be foolish to write off Cork’s chances of football success this season.
On the back of last season’s disappointment in the championship expectations are low that Brian Cuthbert’s charges will mount a serious charge for honours this season, but Kerry star Cooper isn’t buying into that theory.
In fact, he is expecting quite the opposite – a Rebel backlash.
‘We won’t underestimate Cork or write them off on the back of last year,’ Cooper told The Southern Star.
‘Just go back 12 months and people were writing off Kerry during the league and very little was expected in the championship. It’s amazing how things can change very quickly and we know that more than anyone else.
‘Look at the Cork players coming through from some very good U21 teams, there is talent there and you don’t become bad footballers overnight.
‘Sometimes you can have a bad year – we’ve had a few in Kerry – but I don’t think there will be anyone underestimating Cork. Until we see some of their performances in the league it will be hard to see where they are at. But I would expect an improvement.’
Having spent almost 12 months out of the game since he ruptured his cruciate ligament while played for his club Dr Crokes in an All-Ireland club semi-final last February, Cooper had to watch the league and championship from outside the white line.
It gave him a different perspective, being on the outside looking in, but the Killarney man admits he was shocked by Cork’s poor display in the Munster final loss to Kerry in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. However, he is adamant that the Rebels will be a better team this year.
‘I was very surprised with how Cork performed last year, particularly in the Munster final. With the rivalry that’s there between Kerry and Cork it’s rare that you get that type of a game in the Munster championship where one team is so superior over the other, let alone a final,’ eight-time All-Star Cooper said.
‘They’ll have been very disappointed with how they performed in the Munster championship and I’m sure that lessons will be learned.
‘From a players’ point of view and the management’s point of view they will be looking to kick on this year.
‘They certainly have to improve and I’d be amazed if they didn’t. They will be hurting from last year’s performances in the championship and they’ll be feeling that there’s something more to come from the team.
The league is a big challenge for them, and it’s hard to make predictions when you haven’t seen a team this year, to be fair to them.’
On the loss of both Aidan Walsh and Damien Cahalane to the hurlers, Cooper, admitting their loss would be felt, also believes it offers a chance for others to step up the plate.
‘Any county will miss players like them and Aidan has been one of their senior players for the last few years so they are big losses. They’d be a loss to anyone,’ he said.
‘But look at Kerry last year. Eoin Brosnan, Paul Galvin and Tomás Ó Sé all retired, I was out all year, Darren O’Sullivan and Bryan Sheehan missed chunks of the season with injuries, but it gave a chance to other guys to stand out.
‘Sometimes when you come in like that, when expectation is low you can come in under the radar and perform very well. That can build confidence. I think Cork will be looking to replicate something similar this year.’
Cooper, who works for AIB as its Youth Ambassador, visited Mount Saint Michael Secondary School in Rosscarbery, as well as Sacred Heart and Clonakilty Community College on his trip to West Cork last week.
He shared his legendary footballing skills and tips for students who are running their very own school bank as part of AIB’s Build a Bank Challenge 2014/15. The regional finals take place in February and March.
More details on the AIB Build a Bank Challenge are available on www.aib.ie./buildabank with up to date information on the competition on www.facebook.com/AIB.
Gooch would love Páirc comeback
HE would love to end his 12-month injury nightmare by making his comeback against Cork in the league on March 8th in Páirc Uí Rinn – but Colm Cooper insists it might just be too soon for him.
Kerry star Colm Cooper has been sidelined since rupturing the cruciate ligament in his right knee while playing for Dr Crokes in the All-Ireland Club SFC semi-final defeat to Castlebar Mitchels last February, and while he is close to his long-awaited competitive comeback, the derby date with Cork might be a few weeks too soon.
‘I’d love to be up there playing but it will probably be more likely to be the end of March before I am back. That game might be a bit too soon but we’ll see how I am fixed come March. I’d love to play in the game, but we have to wait and see,’ Cooper told The Southern Star.