Sunday 15 September 2019

Talk of Dublin glory era will be music to Stephen Rochford's ears - Colm Cooper

Colm Cooper tells Liam Kelly that Mayo will revel in Dublin being put on a pedestal

Colm Cooper at the launch of his his testimonial dinner in Ballsbridge yesterday. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Colm Cooper at the launch of his his testimonial dinner in Ballsbridge yesterday. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Liam Kelly

Premature accolades hailing this Dublin team being 'one of the greatest ever' do Jim Gavin's men no favours as they face up to the challenge of winning the Sam Maguire Cup for the third successive year.

That's the verdict of Colm 'Gooch' Cooper, who believes Mayo will be delighted to have the Dubs in the 'greatest ever' conversation.

"It's dangerous talk coming up to a final in my opinion, and if I was Stephen Rochford and Mayo, I'd be delighted with all this sort of talk going on around the place.


"I'm sure he'll be planning his ambush and it would be a really sweet one for Mayo to win, given the exposure Dublin are getting for the way they are playing and the levels they have reached," he said.

Cooper, a five-time All-Ireland winner and eight times an All-Star, forecasts a fascinating final clash between champions Dublin and ever-hopeful Mayo.

That said, he acknowledges that the pace, power and depth of the Dubs' squad makes beating them a daunting task for the men of the West.

"I saw them in the Leinster final and albeit Kildare were quite competitive for periods of that match, I felt that Dublin were even a better team this year.

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"When you see Con O'Callaghan and how he's come through - and there wasn't huge talk about him coming into the championship.

"It's extraordinary how they are churning these players out.

"Think of (Michael Darragh) Macauley, (Bernard) Brogan, Paul Flynn getting only some time or little time, that just tells you the level they are at," he said.

Mayo, however, travel with plenty of hope and Cooper believes they have to start on the front foot to have any chance of derailing the Dubs.

"The big plus for Mayo over the last three weeks is that beating Kerry must be a big monkey off their back.

"They've come close, they've got to replays in the past, but actually beating Kerry must give them great confidence, and they've gone to ground since the semi-final.

"We haven't heard too much about them. They'll be planning this ambush and they might even be quietly confident coming in," he said.

The Gooch, who graced Croke Park in so many finals and semi-finals, admits there were times during the summer he thought his decision to retire last April aged 33, had been premature, especially watching the performances of Andy Moran of Mayo and Kerry's Kieran Donaghy, both of his vintage.

"It's been incredible for Andy to see him come back to the level that he's performing at.

"He's been so consistent. He's scoring freely, he's setting up scores. He looks like a guy that's really enjoying his football.

"When I see him at 33 doing what he's doing, and Donaghy playing at 34 and playing well the first day out against Mayo, you're thinking, 'Maybe I could still have done it.'

"It was probably July and August, it really kicked in that I was missing it. You're always wondering could I have given it one more year, particularly when Kerry lose, and you're saying could I have offered some more, but the answer was no.

"My body was sending signals to me to say it was time," he said.

One of the basic lessons Cooper had to learn was how to approach Croke Park on a big match day.

For 15 years, any time he travelled to GAA headquarters, it was on a team coach with privileged entry access.


The Dr Crokes clubman smiled at his innocence on a recent jaunt to Jones' Road as a 'civilian'.

"I remember going to the quarter-final against Galway, and I think there was about 66,000 at it because Mayo and Roscommon were playing after them.

"I thought I could drive down and park my car at the back of Croke Park Hotel.

"Little did I know until I met a nice garda.

"All that has been a steep learning curve.

"Needless to say, I won't be driving down Jones' Road again.

"That stuff has been... look it's been fun. It's different.

"Ideally I'd love to still be playing but time catches up with everyone," he said.

As for Kerry, Cooper believes Eamonn Fitzmaurice is the right man to lead a Kingdom revival, provided Fitzmaurice wants to continue in a demanding job.

"I'm sure we'll hear pretty soon about that," added the Gooch.


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