Cooper set for shock return to lift struggling Kingdom
COLM Cooper could shorten his break from inter-county football to help dig Kerry out of the crisis they find themselves in.
Cooper has not returned to training since Dr Crokes' All-Ireland club semi-final defeat to Ballymun Kickhams last month, and Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice has suggested that his star forward may not play any league football.
At the most, Fitzmaurice felt Cooper might feature in the last league game away to Tyrone.
But Kerry sources yesterday indicated that Cooper could be ready to return to training, if not this week – when just one session is planned – then early next week in the build up to the clash with Cork.
Even his presence on the training ground would represent a significant lift for the struggling Kingdom.
Cooper (below) took the break to allow some niggling injuries to heal, something he has done at this time of year in the past.
Declan O'Sullivan is also likely to return to training after aggravating a calf injury against Dublin but, like Cooper, Saturday's game against Down may just be too early for him.
Paul Galvin has been back training in recent weeks and the visit of Down to Tralee may just be the perfect seasonal opener for him.
Anthony Maher, who has been out of action since the Dublin game, is also in line for a return.
Between injuries and the involvement of their U-21s against Cork tomorrow night, Kerry's absentee list was in double figures for the weekend trip to Donegal.
Bryan Sheehan is still working his way back to fitness, while David Moran, out of action for the last two years, played a club game with Kerins O Rahillys on Saturday.
For the first time since the aftermath of their All-Ireland success in 2000, Kerry have lost their first four league matches.
To lose a fifth in succession would be unprecedented in modern times and almost certainly condemn them to relegation. Even as it is, with games against Down, Cork and Tyrone coming up, they are hanging by a thread.
Kerry have by far the lowest scoring return of any county in the four league divisions with just 1-28 from four matches – highlighting how much they miss Cooper, O'Sullivan and Sheehan.