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Dubs can do it again: Gooch

IT'S probably slightly early to be anointing favourites for the 2014 All-Ireland Football Championship, but Colm Cooper is so swift with his response that his choice of front-runner is clearly a thoughtful one.

"If you get a couple of guys who are injured, particularly key players, that might bring you back to the bunch a little bit," he says, "but Dublin are definitely far and away, for me, the firm favourites with the squad that they have. Considering their age profile is very, very young, they won't be losing any pace or anything like that."

It probably stands to reason the Gooch might bestow the honour upon Dublin, having suffered harshly at their hands in two of Kerry's last three championship defeats, but even within those games he has noticed a trend.

SUBSTITUTES

In the 2011 All-Ireland final, Kerry led by four points with seven minutes to go and famously blew it. On September 1 this year, during Cooper's own virtuoso display for which he was crowned Opel/GPA Player of the Month yesterday, they were two up at half-time, having scored three goals and were one ahead with 68 minutes played, yet somehow lost by seven.

"Where they have it above every team, in fact, is their bench," Cooper added.

"The guys that they are introducing are consistently making an impact.

"Every game I've seen this year, Dean Rock has come on and scored.

"(Kevin) McManamon has scored in different games. Denis Bastick has come on in games and improved things for them, whether it's at midfield or in the backs. So all of their subs who are coming on are making a major impact.

"Things will change," Cooper warns, "and what you'll find is people might get injured or lose form and other teams will improve, but the Dubs still will remain favourites for the All-Ireland."

Already, Cooper – whose Dr Croke's team are going for four Kerry county titles in-a-row against Austin Stack's on Sunday – has decided to recommit to the Kerry cause for 2014 and found enough solace in the debris of this year to offer encouragement for year two of Eamonn Fitzmaurice's reign.

"The appetite is there," he insists, "and I found playing the new position this year was a challenge and, having spoken to Eamonn earlier last year about it, he was kind of keen for me to play that role and I didn't know what to expect. I had done a bit at club level, but it is a different ball game doing it inter-county.

"I enjoyed it and treated it as a challenge to see could I play that game and could I have an impact.

"We didn't know how it would work, but thankfully I got through the games and played reasonably well in most and freshened things and gave me a new lease of life.

"I will be back next year. Where he wants me to play I don't know, but I will be back in the green and gold anyway," Cooper concludes.


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