Monday 22 January 2018

It's Official: Colm Cooper releases poignant statement confirming retirement

Colm Cooper has retired from inter-county football
Colm Cooper has retired from inter-county football
Kerry's Colm Cooper. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Colm Cooper has confirmed he is retiring from inter-county football, as exclusively revealed by the Irish Independent this morning.

Less than three weeks after his All-Ireland club triumph with Dr Crokes on St Patrick's Day, 'Gooch' brought the curtain down on a career that lit up Croke Park, Fitzgerald Stadium and just about every other venue he adorned by releasing a statement a short time ago confirming today's story in the Irish Independent.

"Today I wish to announce my retirement from the Kerry Senior Football team," said Cooper.

"It has been an amazing journey and one that I never wanted to end, however, I feel that this is the right time for me step away from inter county football. Representing the Kingdom for the past seventeen years has given me a tremendous amount of pride and satisfaction.

"To my Kerry teammates that I have soldiered with throughout the years, thank you for your guidance, patience and friendship. I feel extremely lucky to have experienced so many wonderful highlights with you all.

"To get the opportunity to play with, and against, some of the greatest players in the history of the GAA has given me memories that I will always treasure.

Scoring on his senior debut in a Division 2 league final. Photo Brendan Moran / Sportsfile
Scoring on his senior debut in a Division 2 league final. Photo Brendan Moran / Sportsfile

"During my career I have been very fortunate to work with some outstanding Kerry managers. They gave me the confidence to develop my game which allowed me to perform at the highest level.

"I would like to thank the Kerry County Board, backroom staff and medical teams for their constant help and support throughout my career.

"A huge thank you to the loyal Kerry fans at home and abroad for their continuous support. I now become a supporter and wish the team all the best in their quest for honours in 2017.

"I would like to thank my club Dr. Crokes for nurturing my talents and giving me the belief that there was no limit to what I could achieve, also to get the opportunity to Captain Kerry teams is something I’m extremely privileged to have done.

"I’m looking forward to continuing my Dr. Crokes career.

"Finally to my family, without you none of my successes would have been possible. Through the ups and downs, you were the people that believed in me and kept me going. For this I am forever grateful.

Colm Cooper celebrates the goal that sparked an avalanche against Dublin during the 2009 All-Ireland semi-final. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Colm Cooper celebrates the goal that sparked an avalanche against Dublin during the 2009 All-Ireland semi-final. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

"It is very rare for people to achieve their ultimate dreams in life - I just have."

His place in Gaelic football history was already long assured but a debate about where exactly that place is will be re-ignited in the coming days.

He is regarded by many as the greatest player of the modern age, with a range of skills, vision and creativity that few, if any, could match.

Making his Championship debut in 2002 as a 19-year-old, he was the consummate finisher who later became the conductor of the Kingdom orchestra as his career moved on.

Cooper played in nine All-Ireland finals, winning four in 2004, '06, '07 and '09.

There was bitter disappointment too, notably when he captained Kerry to defeat in the 2011 All-Ireland final, having scored an early goal with a typically cold-blooded finish.

The 33-year-old overcame a serious knee injury - ruptured cruciate ligament and fractured knee-cap - in a 2014 All-Ireland club semi-final against Castlebar Mitchels, and missed most of that summer campaign that ended with All-Ireland final victory over Donegal. But he made it back to play his part in the 2015 Championship.

A young Colm Cooper was mascot for the Dr Crokes All Ireland winning 1992 team.
Photo: Don MacMonaglev
A young Colm Cooper was mascot for the Dr Crokes All Ireland winning 1992 team. Photo: Don MacMonaglev

Prior to that, he had been involved in 76 consecutive Championship games for Kerry.

He was top or joint-top scorer in six of the nine All-Ireland finals he played.

He accumulated 4-34 from those nine finals but was held scoreless in his last one against Dublin in 2015, the only Championship game in Croke Park that he drew a blank in.

He finished a 14th season with Kerry with another defeat to Dublin in the 2016 All-Ireland semi-final, his 85th Championship game, but spent the winter and spring driving his Killarney-based club to a first All-Ireland title in 25 years after so many near-misses.

Cooper met with Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice, who holds a League final press briefing this evening, in the week after the club success to discuss his future plans.

Fitzmaurice said:

"On behalf of the players and management I would like to congratulate Colm Cooper on his retirement from inter county football. He has been an incredible servant to the green and gold since his debut 15 years ago in a division 2 League final in 2002 where he scored a goal with his first touch of the ball which set the tone for what was to follow. His list of honours outlines what an illustrious career he has had.

"I was lucky enough to have both played with and managed him. As a player when on the ball in matches I looked for him and in training I tended to steer clear of him. I thoroughly enjoyed working with him as manager.

"When I first took over Kerry one of the main things I wanted to do for the 2013 season was to release Colm from the confines of the inside line and allow him to express himself from centre forward. It was a fresh challenge for him and he set about learning the intricacies of his new position with gusto.

"On a training camp to Portugal one evening in April that year we played flat out football. I can still vividly recall his performance on that beautiful sunny evening as he put on a clinic of how a playmaker should run the game from 11. The excitement that generated in the group was incredible. Unfortunately we did come up short in 2013 but he had an excellent summer culminating in his signature performance in the All Ireland semi final.

"There was one moment prior to James O Donoghue’s goal when he had to take a step back to buy himself the half yard and half second necessary for the move to develop sufficiently before he threaded a delightful pass to Donnchadh Walsh who in turn set up James for the goal. It was Colm exemplified in one score. His awareness and decision making is on a different level. His ability to slow everything down for a second, his skills and of course that bit of magic he possesses with a feint or a dummy is what makes him so unique.

"His iron will to win and his leadership abilities shone through also. While recovering from a serious injury during the summer of 2014 he helped to drive the squad towards the All Ireland which depicted what a team player he was. He was one of the few players that managed to transcend county loyalties and was a player that people from all over the country loved to watch. He has given us all countless hours of enjoyment.

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