O’Connor insists Cooper will only return ‘when he’s ready’
Kerry manager Jack O'Connor has eased fears over Colm Cooper's fitness but has still given him a break from inter-county football until the forward feels ready to return.
Cooper has not trained with Kerry since Dr Crokes' defeat to Crossmaglen Rangers in the AIB All-Ireland club semi-final 10 days ago and is unlikely to for another few weeks.
O'Connor feels it is imperative to rest 'Gooch' but insisted that giving him a rest is not directly linked to an ankle injury he was carrying earlier in the year.
"He's been playing away and training with the club right through the winter," said O'Connor.
"He's not back and he won't be for a few weeks. He'll come back when he's ready. He'll know when he is right himself."
As captain, Cooper played in the majority of his county's league matches last season, but this time Kerry are clearly keen to preserve him for more important dates later in the year.
His Dr Crokes colleague Eoin Brosnan has returned to training with the Kingdom after a towering performance for his club against the reigning All-Ireland champions.
Brosnan is in line for a recall for the trip to Down on Sunday as Kerry bid to bounce back after their surprise defeat to Armagh.
They lost to Kildare in a challenge game over the weekend and will be anxious to get their league campaign back on track after an encouraging opening-round win over Dublin.
Tomas O Se is suspended after being sent off against Armagh, while Donnacha Walsh is still out with a groin complaint.
O'Connor admitted that the loss for the year of David Moran will be sorely felt and said he is still in the dark over Tom O'Sullivan's future plans. In the past, O'Connor has set March 1 as the deadline for players to return, but this time he said that deadline doesn't apply.
"I've stopped setting them. The door is still open for him to return if he wants."
Meanwhile Cavan County Board chairman Tom Reilly met the Central Competition Controls Committee yesterday at their invitation to explain the concerns they had over Seanie Johnston's proposed transfer from Cavan Gaels to St Kevin's in Kildare.
The meeting was understood to be brief and no decision on the transfer has been made by CCCC yet.