Wednesday 21 August 2019

Colm Cooper: Philly McMahon had a fantastic season for Dublin

Philly McMahon and Colm Cooper in conversation during this year’s All-Ireland final
Philly McMahon and Colm Cooper in conversation during this year’s All-Ireland final

Declan Bogue

While others might take offence on his behalf, Colm 'Gooch' Cooper makes light of the criticism of his marker in the All-Ireland final, Dublin's Philly McMahon.

The Kerry forward explained: "You can talk about various points in his play, but the biggest point is that he had a fantastic season. He marked big players in big games and did very, very well against them.

"I've seen it with different players that they come under the microscope an awful lot. We've had it in Kerry with Paul Galvin for a number of years. Some of it fair, some of it unfair. That's just the nature of the beast but I just think he had a very good season with Dublin."

Such is the earnestness with which Cooper responds to the line of questioning that you believe it is less an observation of a particular omerta among county players, more an honest belief.

"I spent a lot of time running around Croke Park in September after him and believe me that was a difficult job," he states, before indulging in a little joke; "I saw different parts of Croke Park that I never saw before!"


Following the 'All-Ireland Final' documentary screened recently on RTÉ, the 32-year-old expressed his surprise that referee David Coldrick was wearing a microphone that captured conversations with Cooper, his team-mate Kieran Donaghy and McMahon.

He asked: "Should the players be told before the game? I think they should. It was there, not to catch out players I don't think, but it was there to show the public what really happens. But I think it would have been nice if they had let both squads know at least.

"In the heat of the moment players can come out with anything and you don't want to be portrayed as something that you're not. Obviously David Coldrick knew about it. He was very cool, calm and collected but the players weren't as cool!"

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While the experiment was undoubtedly revealing, it was similar to a previous documentary aired on Setanta, when Coldrick was wired for sound during the 2013 Ulster final between Monaghan and Donegal.

What emerged above all else from the two programmes is how much disrespect a referee is afforded during an important game.

While match officials in other sports, such as American football and rugby, are able to explain decisions to the whole stadium, Cooper believes that adopting such practice would not be a good move for the GAA.

"The rules in rugby are very defined so most decisions are clearcut enough. The GAA, I would say, is definitely not, so a referee in Kerry might have a different perception to a referee here in Newry.

"In rugby, all the big games we watch are reffed by seven or eight of the top referees around the world and they are well used to that and are going on courses worldwide. I think it would be a challenge for the GAA to get everything right. Maybe refs would feel under more pressure."

Given that one of the sanctions for the black card was foul language towards opponents or the referee, the five-time All-Ireland winner believes this punishment should be observed more strictly.

"The one thing I would say is, if there are comments being made towards referees about different things, penalise them. I'm not sure it (black card) is enforced enough.

"I obviously talk to referees and have my words, but I can guarantee if you penalise guys, you won't be long stopping them."

He also added that he is hopeful that the veterans of the Kerry team will hold off on retirement.

"The likely ones are Marc ó Sé, Aidan O'Mahony, Kieran Donaghy. They'll know themselves, no one can make the decision for them but if they're healthy, if the hunger is still there and their fight for battle is still there, then I hope that they'll go on.

"If it's not they can walk away with their heads held high. But knowing the lads I'd be surprised if they did walk away - they're hungry boyos and they might want some more."

Colm Cooper was appearing at the Abbey CBS school in Newry as an AIB ambassador

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