Cooper warns Kingdom won't recover overnight
It's like asking an agnostic to have faith, but Colm Cooper yesterday urged patience among Kerry supporters in the years ahead as they try to adjust to their first season in seven years without an All-Ireland final appearance.
The Kingdom's marquee forward stressed it wasn't a case of clicking their fingers and getting back there again and that life could become more difficult for them before it gets better in the years ahead. Kerry's departure from the All-Ireland championship on the last day of July was the first time in Cooper's nine-year career that he wasn't playing football in August.
And while he appreciated the break, the desire to hit the road again has been fuelled watching the All-Ireland semi-finals progress from a distance.
"You do take things for granted but you try to take the positive out of it, and it is a mental break for our guys. It might help in the long run," the former Footballer of the Year said.
"Come January, maybe fellas will go back really ready, whereas before there mightn't have been much of a gap. And seeing Cork win the All-Ireland in August and September, when you're not there might be the extra incentive to raise the bar again."
Cooper was speaking at the launch of the All-Ireland club championships at St Vincent's grounds in Marino, Dublin, yesterday, 12 days before he bids for a second Kerry title with Dr Crokes from five final appearances in the last 11 years.
Cooper believes that Jack O'Connor's commitment for a further three years underlines that Kerry should now be viewed as a longer-term project.
"Jack came and built a team that had been so successful and now he realises that he may need to build another team. That doesn't happen overnight," said Cooper. "There are decent players in Kerry and I'm sure Jack will be working on them and trying to bring them into the senior set-up.
"You don't know how long it is going to take, but by him taking on the three years he feels that this is a project that is not going to be sorted in 12 months. He may be building for a couple of years down the line.
"The expectation in Kerry is that they want All-Irelands every year. That's the environment we live in now, but people have to realise too that you can't click your fingers and bring in guys to replace the quality of guys that was there. We just have to give it time."
Cooper admitted he enjoyed his football more this year than he has done for some time and that was reflected in the level of performance he delivered, a level that makes him favourite for one of the three full-forward positions on the forthcoming All Star football team.
"I was enjoying my football very much. The Munster championship went fine for me. We had two tough ones with Cork and a good tussle with Limerick as well. I enjoyed the football and the training. The hunger seemed to be there but we weren't good enough as a group in Kerry. Ultimately, you need the team to be winning to make the most of it and we came up short."
The loss of Paul Galvin and Tomas O Se to suspension didn't help but Cooper was diplomatic in his assessment of that.
"There was probably anger in some quarters but from our point of view, whether we feel it was deserved or undeserved, it doesn't matter because they weren't available. They were obviously two huge blows for us.
"The performance that day against Down was a very poor one. I don't know was it just a flat performance or whatever but obviously the two boys would have been a huge help had they been there. It was just one of those things."
Cooper has reiterated the forthcoming International Rules series has "no appeal" for him and that he hasn't enjoyed his involvement in the past.
"I played in 2005 and unfortunately for me that was an ill-tempered one. I just didn't enjoy it. It was great to say you played for Ireland but we were comprehensively beaten. It's a game that I tried, had the experience of and it's probably not for me so I just left it at that."
Meanwhile, ex-Monaghan boss Seamus McEnaney is remaining tight-lipped about his intentions after he was officially nominated for the vacant Meath post. His name is one of 13 on the official shortlist to succeed Eamonn O'Brien in the Royal County hot-seat.
McEnaney said last night: "I'm aware that I have been nominated and Meath is a high-profile job. There are some top names also linked with the position and I'm flattered to find my name in such a high-calibre field."