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O'Connor: Cooper's final hopes a 'romantic notion'

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Jack O'Connor believes the idea of Colm Cooper appearing for Kerry in the All-Ireland final 'wouldn't be a runner at all'. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Jack O'Connor believes the idea of Colm Cooper appearing for Kerry in the All-Ireland final 'wouldn't be a runner at all'. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

Jack O'Connor believes the idea of Colm Cooper appearing for Kerry in the All-Ireland final 'wouldn't be a runner at all'. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

In the days after Colm Cooper suffered his knee injury, Jack O'Connor granted an interview to Raidio na nGaeltachta and he remembers the line of questioning was particularly downbeat.

Kerry's prospects didn't look good back then but in the interview, O'Connor offered the suggestion that a year in the long grass could be the best thing for a team trying to find its feet. Expectation, he explained, can be a suffocating thing. He has no doubt that's what brought Dublin's title defence to an end on Sunday and also what has helped Kerry blossom.

"The lady who was interviewing me was very pessimistic about Kerry's chances," he recalled. "I said that in a perverse way this would take the pressure off the Kerry team in that other players could flourish without the expectation but that Kerry needed to have a renaissance for the likes of Donaghy. I remember saying those words and I think something like that has happened.

"Kerry have managed to fly under the radar all the year, give the impression they're rebuilding and yet be a very serious team who have grown as the season has gone on. Expectation is an amazing thing. The expectation in Kerry was low this year. You can work very well then in that environment. I think expectation got to Dublin. No question. When you're touted that highly and you're hot favourites, I don't care what way you approach the game, it can be very difficult to get the mind properly focused.

"There were just signs earlier on yesterday that Dublin weren't at it. Even Cluxton was missing kicks he'd normally put over, Bernard Brogan missed two scoreable frees that he'd put over. The point I'm making is expectation is an amazing thing. It can be very hard to cope with it whereas lack of expectation helps people to play under the radar."

Dublin didn't help themselves tactically either, he points out. Having lost out to Donegal in the 2012 All-Ireland quarter-final as Kerry manager, O'Connor insists 'patience' is the key element to breaking down Donegal.

"It just requires ferocious patience. I think the mistake Dublin made for example was that they got sucked in to the opposition half of the field. You just can't do that. In many ways, you've to be prepared for a game of cat and mouse. You just have to mind the house and make sure if you're not getting scores, you're not conceding scores.

"They've always stated that they go out and play their own game at all costs. They might be revising that tactic this morning.

"I never say anyone's naive. It's just that it's alright sometimes to play your own game but sometimes certainly you have to take the opposition into account. I just thought they left huge space in front of their full-back line and sooner or later the dam was going to break."

O'Connor will bring his Kerry minor footballers to Croke Park on All-Ireland final day, where he will look to follow in the footsteps of Mickey Harte and manage a winning team in the three major grades, but he reckons it's unlikely that Colm 'Gooch' Cooper will play any part in the senior game.

"You never say never. It will depend on the circumstances. I'm certain the Gooch will be desperate to play, absolutely desperate to play but realistically he's only done the warm-ups, a bit of kicking, a bit of running and whatever. I don't think he has done any contact stuff, so unless he does full-on contact before the final then, no, it wouldn't be a runner at all. It would be a romantic notion but not a runner."

Irish Independent