Legendary Kerry forward Colm Cooper has announced his retirement from inter-county football at the age of 33 after a hugely successful career where he believes he achieved his “ultimate dreams in life”.
Cooper made his debut for the Kingdom in 2002 and won five All-Ireland titles, three national league crowns and nine Munster championships.
His stellar performances in the green and gold earned him eight All Stars.
He added a much-coveted All-Ireland club medal to his haul on St Patrick’s Day when the Killarney native helped Dr Crokes defeat Slaughtneil, scoring a goal in the win.
Cooper met Kerry manager Éamonn Fitzmaurice to discuss his inter-county future 10 days ago and resolved to mull over the issues before returning with a conclusion to go or to stay.
Fitzmaurice left the decision with the player, affording him the time and space in which to make up his mind.
The question for Cooper was whether to go out on a high after Dr Crokes heroics on St Patrick’s Day or to throw his lot in with Kerry in a bid to secure a first All-Ireland winner’s medal since 2009, having played no onfield part in the Kingdom’s 2014 All-Ireland success due to a cruciate ligament injury.
A statement on the Kerry GAA website from Cooper today read:
“Today I wish to announce my retirement from the Kerry Senior Football team. 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.
“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.
“It is very rare for people to achieve their ultimate dreams in life – I just have.”
Fitzmaurice was the first to pay tribute to Cooper, his statement read: “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.
“I wish him all the best for the future on and off the field.”
Cooper retires as Kerry’s all time leading scorer with an incredible haul of 23-283 in 85 Championship games.
The Gooch is widely regarded as one of the, if not the best player to ever wear the green and gold of the Kingdom. His agility, vision and accuracy bamboozled defences up and down the country.
Those of us who have been fortunate to witness Cooper in person will miss him in the coming years but the memories he leaves behind will no doubt continue to bring smiles to our faces.
Lets enjoy one of his finest goals against Dublin:
Enjoy retirement Colm, you have been a loyal servant to the Kingdom for so many years and you will go down as a true legend of the game. Go raibh maith agat agus baint taitneamh as.
5 All Ireland Senior, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2014
3 National Leagues, 2004, 2006, 2009.
1 National League Div2 2002.
9 Munster Senior, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016
1 Munster Minor, 2001.
1 Munster U21, 2002.
6 Senior County Championships, 2000, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2016.
5 Munster Club 2006,2011,2012,2013,2014.
1 All Ireland Club
8 All Stars 2002, 2004,2005,2007,2008,2010,2011,2013.
Texaco Player of the year 2004