Cooper points way for Kerry's milestone men
Another weekend, another Kerry football milestone.
On the same night that Tomas O Se will pass his older brother Darragh and break the record for the number of football championship appearances, for any county (82 in all once he starts against Clare in the All-Ireland quarter-final), Colm Cooper will close in on the all-time championship scoring record.
Records of this nature are not uniform. Unlike other sporting organisations, proper databases for such information are not co-ordinated.
But with 18-236 amassed so far from 69 appearances, Cooper is just two points behind his fellow Kerryman Mike Sheehy, who has held the record for the last 25 years with 29-205.
On the law of averages, Cooper will pass Sheehy sometime after 7.0 tomorrow night at Limerick's Gaelic Grounds.
Cooper has amassed his tally from 69 championship games and it is noticeable from his 30 appearances in Croke Park in a 10-year span he has scored an impressive 9-121, an average of just below five points per game at headquarters.
At other championship venues, his 9-115 comes from 39 games, an average of 3.64. His overall average is 4.2 points per game, less than Sheehy's average of almost six points per game.
Unlike Sheehy, however, Cooper hasn't always been the premier free-taker for Kerry. When he started, Dara O Cinneide was the principle kicker, while Bryan Sheehan is now firmly established in that role.
His 29 goals from just 49 games is a highly impressive return and embellishes his selection on the teams of the millennium and century.
Yet Sheehy is on the record in the past as claiming that Cooper is the best forward he has ever seen.
Cooper has never come away from a game in Croke Park without a score and there have only been two games in his championship catalogue when he has finished scoreless -- the drawn 2002 Munster final against Cork in his debut season and the replayed Munster final against Limerick in 2004.
His greatest returns have been the 2-5 he scored against Limerick in the 2005 Munster championship and his 1-8 against Cork in Croke Park as Kerry advanced to the 2008 All-Ireland final after a replay.
Cooper's highest seasonal tally was 2009 when he scored 1-34, including 1-7 against Dublin in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
In 2005, he hit 4-23 in six games, an average of just under six points per game. His quietest season was 2003 when he scored just 11 points in four matches.
The volume of games he has played has clearly helped to put Cooper within striking distance now of Sheehy, but the quality of defence has improved significantly since Sheehy's peak years.
The same dynamics have pushed a modern-day hurler to the top of the scoring charts too. Two years ago, Henry Shefflin passed Eddie Keher's record when he hit 0-12 against Dublin in a Leinster semi-final.
According to the Kerry GAA website, Paddy Bradley is third in the all-time list of championship scorers with 17-202, while another Kerry legend Maurice Fitzgerald comes in next, 12 points adrift of Bradley, with 12-205.
Armagh's Oisin McConville is fifth according to the website with 16-192, one behind Fitzgerald.
Tomas O Se has already drawn level with Darragh after last weekend's grudge match with Tyrone in Killarney, while Cooper will join Dublin goalkeeper John O'Leary in fourth place on the all-time appearances list in championship football when he plays for the 70th time for Kerry tomorrow night. Tom O'Sullivan ended his career with 76 appearances and remains in third place behind the O Se brothers.