I'd fly over myself to get Tommy Walsh back to Kerry – Colm Cooper
COLM COOPER says he would "fly over myself" to Sydney to get Tommy Walsh if it meant the AFL-based Tralee man returning to the Kerry set-up.
The 2009 Young Footballer of the Year, whose contract with Sydney Swans expires early next year, has indicated he could be ready to return to the Kingdom and Cooper believes he would be the perfect tonic for Kerry.
"I'd nearly fly over for him myself," smiled the Dr Crokes man. "We'd obviously love to have Tommy back. He left in a blaze of glory after having a fantastic All-Ireland against Cork in 2009 and we were hoping that was the start of where Tommy Walsh was going. Unfortunately for us, but fortunately for him, he got an opportunity Down Under.
"He couldn't really turn it down. As it stands, it's going to be his last year unless things change. All the players and management in Kerry certainly would be delighted if he came home and he would obviously only strengthen us and give us more options. He'd be a big boost if we got him back."
On Friday night, Cooper picked up his eighth All Star award, which saw him overtake Mikey Sheehy and leaves him just one short of Pat Spillane's record haul. Having only turned 30 in June, Cooper could still overtake Spillane but he dismissed that thought as premature.
"I don't know if I'll ever win one more," he said. "I don't know how long more I'll be playing football, so whether I catch him or I don't, eight is something I'm delighted with.
"I wouldn't have even dreamt I'd get it starting off 12 years ago, so to be even mentioned in the same bracket as Pat is a bit strange but we'll see."
Cooper is the face of AIB's new television ad campaign, which bills the All-Ireland club championship as 'The Toughest of them all' and it's a medal that continues to elude him.
For two successive winters now, Cooper and Dr Crokes have emerged from Munster as champions but failed to make it to St Patrick's Day. In the last week, however, the road ahead has opened up. Their conquerors of the last two years, Crossmaglen and Ballymun, have been beaten and the Kerry champions have been installed favourites to lift the trophy on March 17.
After winning four successive county titles, Cooper agrees that this Crokes team are running out of chances.
"I always treat it as a last go," he said. "I know how hard it was for us to get back here because it took us long enough to win county finals in Kerry. The team isn't getting any younger, and I suppose myself and Eoin Brosnan are two of the older guys. You just don't know what might happen. Guys might go travelling, pick up injures. It's just this year we're focusing on."
Crokes' remarkable success also offers Cooper another chance to captain Kerry. He took the honour in 2011 – when he was the latest All-Ireland final skipper to suffer the 'curse of No 13'. He also took the role in 2012 before steping aside for Brosnan and he hasn't ruled out taking another turn.
"I haven't even thought about it to be honest. It wasn't until the night of the county final that the captaincy was mentioned and there will probably be four or five Crokes lads who will be looking to break into the team," he said.
"We'll have a chat about it when the time is right. I'd say it'll be something similar with (Kerry manager) Eamonn (Fitzmaurice). We'll look at it then but for the moment it's not a big issue."
Whenever Crokes' campaign ends, Cooper plans on – with the blessing of Fitzmaurice – taking a few weeks out of football. Last year, after losing the All-Ireland club semi-final in mid-February, he didn't play for Kerry until the end of March.
It had been suggested he wouldn't feature at all in the league until the spectre of relegation loomed over the Kingdom.
"Eamonn probably is looking for me to be fresh coming into May/June and not to be hitting the wall or anything like that. It's just about managing it," said Cooper.
"That will really depend on how the Crokes thing goes. We are playing this weekend and could be beaten. You already have six weeks of a break, maybe even a little bit more, if not you could be training right through Christmas with Crokes and going to an All-Ireland semi-final.
"It's really managing it from game to game and seeing if we do keep going that there's some sort of break. But I'm not manager of the team so that's something Eamonn will have to decide."
First, there's another hurdle to climb when Tipperary champions Loughmore-Castleiney come to Killarney on Saturday. It has been said that winter football doesn't suit this Crokes side but it's a theory Cooper's keen to dispel.
"We're a little bit older, a little bit wiser, and I think fitter," he said. "But we'll only find that out over the next couple of weeks, to see how far we have progressed. Whether we struggle in the winter or not I'm not so sure.
"We've got through to February the last two years, so we can't be all that bad in the winter conditions."