Cooper conquers pain barrier to lead Dr Crokes' title tilt
KERRY captain Colm Cooper will delay having surgery on a long-standing ankle injury until Dr Crokes exit the club championship series. The Crokes ace, who scored 1-3 in the Killarney outfit's successful defence of their Kingdom crown on Sunday, faces up to three months on the sideline when he finally decides to undergo corrective surgery on this niggling left ankle injury.
But Cooper has signalled his intentions to line out for Dr Crokes in the upcoming Munster club campaign, starting with a provincial quarter-final against Waterford champions Ballinacourty next Sunday.
While Cooper has recovered fully from an ankle injury he sustained in the All-Ireland defeat to Dublin, he is still troubled by a long-term ankle problem that will eventually require surgery.
The 28-year-old iconic forward admits that he has struggled through Kerry championship games over the past few weeks before springing to life on Sunday against Mid Kerry but he praised his team-mates for upping their performances.
"My ankle wasn't great. But I knew Tuesday night that it was back 100pc. It was pretty taped up for the last few games and I was just getting by," Cooper admitted.
"In fairness, you had Kieran (O'Leary), Daithi (Casey), Brian Looney and other guys stepping up to the mark during games. That's the lucky position we are in; Kieran (on Sunday) probably missed a bit, he has been our star player in the championship but other guys then stood up to the plate.
"That's been the mantra of the team all year -- if it's not working for one guy then someone else will step up. That's what's bringing us our success at the moment."
Cooper was thrilled to make a welcome return to winning ways, just seven weeks after captaining a losing Kerry team in that All-Ireland final defeat to Dublin.
Cooper, who has now won a hat-trick of county titles (2000, '10, '11), admits that returning to the Dr Crokes set-up was just what he needed after the All-Ireland final.
"I have always said that the tonic after an All-Ireland, particularly losing an All-Ireland, is to get back amongst your own, to get back into those circles with the guys you socialise mostly with, the guys you train with every night, the guys you have grown up with, and you're at ease with," Cooper said.
"We are very lucky that we have a talented bunch now and we are back competing for county titles. That's a great tonic after losing an All-Ireland. I am just in the fortunate position where we have that. For myself, Eoin (Brosnan), Johnny (Buckley), Kieran (O'Leary) and Daithi (Casey), we have been very lucky that we came back into the group and they had so much work done. We flew back into it."
It was no surprise to see Cooper set Dr Crokes on their way to victory when he found the net just 20 seconds into the Kerry decider, handing the Killarney club a lead that they never relinquished.
Sunday also marked a return to form for the four-time All-Ireland winner who is looking forward to the Munster club series with Crokes eager to make amends for January's horror show against Nemo Rangers in the provincial final.
"I don't know what happened that day against Nemo. That wasn't reflective of the team last year. We were a very solid team but for some reason we didn't show up at all that day," Cooper admitted.
"To be honest, we haven't given the Munster series too much thought because we weren't looking past Mid Kerry. But as the hours go on, we will start looking towards the weekend."
Cooper also points out that Dr Crokes' recent success can be attributed to the impetus given by their new generation of players, such as Daithi Casey and Johnny Buckley, as well as Fionn Fitzgerald and Chris Brady.
"They are very good and the big bonus they have is they are building up a lot of experience. Daithi and Johnny have played in three county finals in a row in Kerry, a county final in Cork and played in Sigersons; that's huge experience for guys of 21 to have," Cooper said.
"That's the bonus that those guys are getting along with the guys that are winning U-21 county championships. It's bringing them a step further and it's bringing the club to another level which we haven't been at in a long, long time. It bodes well for the future."