'We'll never see an 18-year-old guy weighing 10-stone dominating like that again' - Kieran Donaghy on Colm Cooper
One of the greatest ever inter-county careers has ended and Kieran Donaghy feels that we will never see a player like Colm Cooper again.
He retires with eight All Stars, five All-Irelands, a club All-Ireland, nine Munster titles and four national league crowns to his name.
In 145 games for Kerry, he scored 35-447. In his 85 Championship games, he scored 23-283.
He burst onto the scene as a teenager in 2002 and earned an All Star despite his slight frame.
Speaking on Off The Ball this evening, former Kerry team mate Marc Ó Sé said "Gooch was about 10 stone in that final (2002) and I was 11 but if you fast-forward 10 years. Gooch was after putting on a stone and a half and I put on... I think I went from 11 to 13 stone.
"It shows how players develop but he was scrawny when he started out. He definitely got stronger as the years went on, in his legs particularly, but he always had that balance, both feet, he was so skillful, so brave. He was a great man to catch the ball over his head. He was a great teammate.
"Gooch always did the right thing with the ball.
"There's so much emphasis now put on strength and conditioning and that is very important, but Gooch was a rare example of a fella who played with pure footballing ability.
"We always felt if he got a bang that he'd be in trouble but he never did.
"Gooch was able to hold his own. I remember the games against Tyrone and Armagh when he came in for rough treatment but he never complained or gave out, he just got on with it.
"He was just exceptional."
Kieran Donaghy, who formed a lethal combination with Gooch during his career, doesn't believe we will ever see anyone capture the public's imagination like Cooper did in '02.
"I don't think we'll ever see a guy come in at 18 or 19 and weigh 10 stone and get an All Star and dominate the football landscape for most of his career.
"Gooch was just this raw, electric talent that jumped onto TV screens all over Ireland. People knew he was gifted in Kerry, but for the whole county to say, 'This guy is special'. That's what marks him out as one of the best ever.
"I don't think you'll ever have that again and it sums up his greatness. How he could come in as a 10 stone, 19-year-old kid and nearly lead Kerry to an All-Ireland at his first try."
Cooper was constantly targeted by opposition players but Ó Sé claims he was well able for the hard stuff and Kerry teammates who tried similar tactics in training would regret it.
"He was well able to take it. If you wanted to play it tough, he would play it tough. I remember nights in training when someone would try and get tough with him and you wouldn't be long before you'd get a bloody nose."