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Thursday 22 February 2018

Kerry in shock as the curtain comes down on the career of one of football's greats

Former Dr Crokes keeper Peter O’Brien with a photo of himself as goalie and Colm Cooper as team mascot in 1992 Photo: Don MacMonagle
Former Dr Crokes keeper Peter O’Brien with a photo of himself as goalie and Colm Cooper as team mascot in 1992 Photo: Don MacMonagle

Graham Clifford

After all the shimmies, exquisite foot passes and triumphs, Colm 'the Gooch' Cooper finally closed the door yesterday on one of the most illustrious careers in the history of Gaelic football.

The five-time All-Ireland winner quietly bowed out of the inter-county game in his familiarly understated manner. We'll never see the freckled menace in a green and gold jersey again.

For Peter O'Brien, who gave Colm his renowned nickname, it was a day tinged with both sadness and pride.

"We grew up in the same area. I was good friends with Colm's older brothers and would play football with him. Colm would always tag along. From day one, I knew he was something very special. He'd be playing alongside, and beating, 16-year-olds to the ball when he was eight. Of course, it's a very sad day for Kerry football, but he owes us nothing."

Peter walked out on to the Croke Park pitch with Colm as an eight-year-old mascot when Dr Crokes won the All-Ireland Club Championship in 1992.

He added: "I'm sure this is a difficult day for Colm. The man lives and breathes Kerry football. But he simply couldn't go out any higher. His late parents would have been so proud of him today."

Read More: Martin Breheny: Where sits 'Gooch' at top table?

Across the Kingdom yesterday, football supporters tried to digest the news.

"When I heard it on the radio I thought I was dreaming… that this couldn't be true. But it is and we're devastated," said Kathleen O'Sullivan, from Tralee.

There was a sense of mourning in Kerry yesterday, with everyone in agreement on one thing. They will never see the likes of him again.

The Gooch in the colours of the Kingdom. Photo: Sportsfile
The Gooch in the colours of the Kingdom. Photo: Sportsfile

"We don't care what anybody else says, he is the best player of all time," said his Dr Crokes clubmate Bryan O'Shea.

In the garden of his terraced home in Killarney, the old Cooper family home, two small Dr Crokes flags fluttered yesterday. His neighbour Noreen Buckley said of him: "He's an amazing boy. We're all so very proud of everything he did in his career with Kerry."

In all, Cooper played 85 Championship games for Kerry, scoring 23-283 in the process. While tributes flowed from around the country yesterday, only one county mourned their loss.

Irish Independent

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