Corofin need massive effort to keep Cooper and Co quiet - Fitzgerald
All-Ireland-winning Galway defender Kieran Fitzgerald says it will take a huge collective effort to put the shackles on Colm 'Gooch' Cooper as he faces off against the Kerry sharpshooter at club level for the first time this weekend.
Fitzgerald's club, Connacht champions Corofin, clash with their Munster counterparts Dr Crokes in the All-Ireland Club SFC semi-final at the Gaelic Grounds on Saturday. The 2015 All-Ireland champions Corofin were sensational in Connacht again this year and hammered 2013 All-Ireland winners St Brigid's 2-13 to 0-4 in Carrick-on-Shannon in November on the way to another provincial title.
Dr Crokes won their way through the Kerry championship and went on to claim the Munster title where they trounced the Nire by 3-15 to 0-6 in the decider.
It all points towards a fascinating open game of football in the final four at Limerick this weekend, but Fitzgerald says Dr Crokes also possess a strong defence that Corofin will find difficult to break down.
The 36-year-old former All-Star has won a record 11 county titles with Corofin, but now he must prepare to stop an eight-time All-Star and five-time All-Ireland winner in the shape of Cooper.
"We have come across each other a few times in the inter-county scene, but Kerry have been so dominant that they would have been super teams and Galway wouldn't have come out on the right side of those results," said Fitzgerald.
"The Crokes have some marquee players with the Gooch, Fionn Fitzgerald, Johnny Buckley, Kieran O'Leary, you can rhyme them off, it's a great team. They have some very good talent throughout their team, and it goes unnoticed how good their defence is - they haven't conceded a whole lot throughout the Munster Championship.
"But they have been racking up the scores of course. And it's going to be a collective effort to shut down their forward line. The Gooch is a super player and we will have a crack at keeping him quiet, we will see how we get on."
Fitzgerald won an All-Ireland with Galway in 2001, when they beat Meath in the final at Croke Park, and he retired from inter-county football in 2011.
But later that year he won another county title with Corofin, and his love affair continues with the club, as he looks to reach his second All-Ireland club final.
"There are so many new lads on the panel and they are pushing us all the way for our places in the team. The young lads are flying it in training and they are really hungry," he said. "When we were winning county titles in 2008 and 2009, they would have seen all of that, and now they want to create their own success on the big stage."