COLM 'Gooch' Cooper is ready, willing and able to captain Kerry for the 2011 campaign after the victory of his club Dr Crokes in the Kingdom's county senior football final on Sunday.
Cooper played a key role in the 1-15 to 0-11 defeat of Austin Stacks in front of a crowd of over 10,000, scoring 1-5.
His 40th-minute goal proved the turning point in the first all-club county final in Kerry since 2003, and helped Crokes lift their first county senior championship title since 2000.
The victory means that Crokes will nominate the Kerry captain for next year and, subject to the formalities being completed in the next eight weeks, Cooper will lead the green and gold.
He already has experience of captaining Kerry as he stood in for Declan O'Sullivan midway through the 2006 campaign when the latter was dropped.
O'Sullivan regained his place for the '06 final against Mayo, and when he went up to receive the Sam Maguire Cup, made sure that Cooper joined him on the podium for the presentation.
Next year it will be almost certainly Cooper's solo role.
"This group of (Dr Crokes) players deserve a huge amount of credit because they've come back from everything, from All-Ireland club final defeats to county final defeats," Cooper said. "They deserve everything they've earned."
It's back to business on the double for Crokes next weekend. They play an O'Donoghue Cup quarter-final on Saturday against Seamus Scanlon's Currow and on Sunday they face Milltown/Castlemaine in their final game in Division 1 of the county league, needing a win to ensure their place in the league final.
Assuming the Killarney side win their O'Donoghue Cup match, they would most likely face a semi-final in that competition on October 31, and then are scheduled to play Limerick champions Monaleen in the Munster Club championship at home on November 7.
Kerry's unaccustomed early finish to the All-Ireland campaign could help Cooper and the Crokes players in their club ambitions.
"I suppose we've had a longer lay-off than we usually have at this time of year, but there will be a bit of enjoyment and that might galvanise everyone again," added Cooper.