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Friday 18 April 2014

Ballymun aim to rein in Cooper

Ballymun's Derek Byrne

IT took about 10 minutes for Colm Cooper to decide last year's Kerry county final.

In that period, the Dr Crokes man gathered possession five times. From that, he had a hand in 2-2 and kicked a point himself to leave Dingle's challenge in ruins.

With a three in-a-row secured on a bank holiday weekend, Killarney should have been hopping. It wasn't. Dr Crokes had their eyes on a bigger prize.

And while Saturday's All-Ireland senior club semi-final opponents Ballymun might be looking at ways to stop Cooper, the Kerry side have plenty more besides. Kieran O'Leary and Brian Looney have been in excellent form, running hard lines off Cooper and invariably scoring.

"They have quality all around the field," agreed Ballymun's Derek Byrne (pictured right). "They have three Kerry and two Munster titles, so they are a quality outfit. We have to concentrate on ourselves, there's no point in being caught up with Dr Crokes.

SUPER

"It's not just the Gooch – though, in fairness to the man himself, he's a super, super footballer. He's one of the best to have played the game."

In terms of experience, Crokes have been around the block while Ballymun are on new ground.

"It's been a massive season. We set out to win Dublin and that's so hard to do. Then we went and won Leinster and it's never been achieved here and we're in the history books in the club," said Byrne.

Crokes are the other side of the coin. They secured a record seventh East Kerry title last year on top of everything else.

Looney, for example, is only 25, but has already lost an All-Ireland club final (in 2007 against Crossmaglen after a replay).

Like Looney, team captain Kieran O'Leary joined the Crokes panel in 2005 and insists they are stronger for some of the defeats they have suffered in recent years.

"We have learned a lot from the defeats in the county finals to South Kerry ('05, '06 and '09) and in 2005 and 2007 in the club championship, because we were young at the time and there were lessons learned from those losses," he said.

"We came back and showed tremendous character. We love training together, we socialise together and I guess we are like a family in that we all grew up together. So, we are stronger for all those defeats and that is why we don't want our winning run to end."

Crossmaglen ended Crokes' interest at the semi-final stage last year and in Ballymun they face a side that have hardly taken a breath since winning their first Dublin championship in 30 years. No fewer than seven of Paul Curran's squad are waiting to join the Dubs when their club commitments end.

"We took a nice break collectively," Byrne said. "We had four weeks off, we started on December 17, 2011 so we were on the road for a full year and we needed a break.

"We came back on the field on January 8 and it was set in place from there on where we were going. We're in a very good place at the moment."

Full-back Philly McMahon will most likely pick up Cooper, but there are other big battles.

Davy Byrne is one of the smaller midfielders around, but he jumps like a flea and, along with James McCarthy, will tackle Johnny Buckley and Ambrose O'Donovan.

Crokes will also have to make allowances for Ted Furman, but the extent Ballymun manage to curb Cooper's influence by will have a huge bearing.

"We've had a game plan all year and it's all about us executing that. It has worked all season," Byrne concluded.

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