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Kingdom still coming


WHERE to play the Gooch?

Pulling strings on the '40' or twisting the knife close to goal? Picking out the perfect pass for Kieran Donaghy or riding shotgun to 'Star'?

It's a tricky question and the aforementioned 'Star' Donaghy isn't quite sure which option he'd prefer, suggesting instead: "If you could have two of them, it'd be great."



The good news for Tipperary is that human cloning has yet to be perfected by modern science, so there will only be one Colm Cooper in Fitzgerald Stadium next Sunday as Kerry open their latest Munster SFC campaign.

Debate about Cooper's likely location under new boss Eamonn Fitzmaurice has been fuelled by his masterful first-half display – from centre- forward – on the last day of the league in Omagh.

Kerry survived a second-half Tyrone onslaught to preserve their Division One status, but Donaghy isn't ready – just yet – to call time on Cooper's days as his inside partner-in-pillage.

"He wasn't a bad corner-forward too for 10 years!" laughed Donaghy at yesterday's Ulster Bank launch to find their best 'GAA Home' in Ireland.

"I wouldn't rule out his number 13 days, by any means. It (centre-forward) is certainly a role that he is quite good at. I think that came from (playing with his club) Crokes, going out and lifting things, getting on ball.

"He's so dangerous that it's hard to take him away from being close to goals," the towering target man expanded. "He's certainly a good distributor of the ball and he's very accurate. That makes your job easier when you're full-forward.

"We've a very good understanding over a long period of time; I know where he's going to be when I get the ball. It's going to be inevitably the management's call where he's put.

"Most of our forwards can play in a range of positions. Declan (O'Sullivan) can play outside and inside. I can play out around the middle of the field. I think it's something we haven't really had in other years. We've been set where fellas are going to be. The league this year has been different."

For possibly the first year in Donaghy's inter-county career, Kerry are embarking on a championship campaign in May with only a small minority of pundits actually tipping them for September glory. The 2006 Footballer of the Year sees this altered landscape as both a fair assessment of Kerry's current status and an extra incentive to disprove their growing army of doubters.

"The reality is that we've been beaten in two quarter-finals and a final in the last three years in Croke Park.

"We've lost a lot of experienced guys too so I think it's a fair reflection of the way it's gone," he admitted.

"Mayo proved that they have to be real contenders ... you know, I don't think they got a whole lot of credit last year for losing that final to a very good Donegal team.

"People were saying it was the same old Mayo again but I think James Horan has done an unbelievable job with them. And I think they proved again on Sunday (against Galway) that they're a force to be reckoned with this year.



"You've got your Dublins and Donegals and Tyrones and we're probably in the next pack down. That's the way the lie of the land is now.

"But, as you say, there's a long summer there.

"Teams hit good patches and teams hit bad patches and we'd just be hoping that we can get good performances out of ourselves and generally be more consistent in our performance."

But he shrugged off the perception that it's now or never for Kerry's golden generation, given the ageing profile of the team inherited by their former team-mate, Fitzmaurice.

"You're always mad to retire fellas in the media!" he countered.

"You know, when a fella wants to finish playing he can finish. I look at Tomás Ó Sé now and Tomás looks as fit now as he did when he was 25.

"He's never had any injuries, so why should he retire now if he's enjoying playing football?

"As a team we're not thinking of that; as a team we're thinking of this year and how you can improve fellas this year and win. That's what it's about."