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Kerry's Colm Cooper celebrates a goal in the 2007 Munster final. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Kerry's Colm Cooper celebrates a goal in the 2007 Munster final. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
SOCIAL BOOKMARKS

Gooch was a genius but Cork bias means I'll always prefer Larry Tompkins or Podsie O'Mahony

The Éamonn Murphy GAA column

THE eulogies for Colm Cooper's inter-county career were lengthy to the point of excess yet fully deserved.

The 12-page pull-out in last week's Irish Examiner might have seemed over the top, but apart from Henry Shefflin, no hurler or footballer in the modern era has been as influential and exciting as The Gooch. That he doesn't look like a prototype athlete, and his longevity, mean he is a genuine icon.

Could you give a young forward a better compliment than to compare him to Cooper? He's the poster boy for skill over strength and practise over protein shakes.

He's a majestic attacker, capable of clipping over points from all angles off either side – proving that in Kerry they don't have a strong or a weak foot, just a left and a right – clinical in front of goal and a creative force too. In an alternative universe, he'd have made an Andrés Iniesta-esque soccer playmaker or a pure basketball point guard like Chris Paul, one of the few in the NBA who is more interested in assists than scores.

Cooper might not have lit up the hardwood like Kieran Donaghy, but the basketball influence in his passing is a direct link to current Dr Crokes and former Kerry boss Pat O'Shea, who excelled at hoops. Gooch tallied 23-283 across his stint in the Kerry colours, yet his greatest display was arguably at centre-forward in the thrilling loss to Dublin the 2013 All-Ireland semi-finals because of his exquisite kickpassing for Kerry's first-half goals.

However for Leesiders it's natural to have a strained relationship with the Gooch. For many of us, you could admire him, acknowledge his status as a legend, but not love him.

As a Rebel I'm still bitter over the championship goals against us, in the 2002 All-Ireland semi-final, the drive past Paddy O'Shea in the 2007 Munster final and the fisted effort over Alan Quirke in the All-Ireland, the late sucker punch in the 2008 All-Ireland semi-final replay and the side-foot to the net in Killarney four years ago.

I've never quite forgiven Cooper for his cuteness in the 2009 All-Ireland either, earning a series of crucial frees from Anthony Lynch. Or his ability to cope with being held from play in the 2010 Munster semi-final replay at Páirc Uí Chaoimh yet deliver a man-of-the-match display, which included setting up a Donaghy goal and forcing Graham Canty into fouling him and picking up a second yellow.

Cork's Graham Canty fouls Kerry's Colm Cooper. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Cork's Graham Canty fouls Kerry's Colm Cooper. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Lynch, along with Canty in the mid-noughties, and Michael Shields on occasion, was able to shackle Cooper but not stop him. He retired with five senior All-Ireland medals if you include 2014 when he was recovering from injury, and leaves Kerry football in rude health. Especially compared to Cork.

Gooch was a genius but he was also a winner. He was never pushed around, despite his slight build, and in true Roy Keane fashion he's spoken about how the All-Irelands left behind nag him. As a Corkonian you could respect his hard edge while cursing it, and his dominance over the neighbours.

Everyone has their favourite football forwards and even if he was one of the best I could never reconcile that with the green and gold geansaí. Larry Tompkins, Davie Barry – as a soccer powerhouse too – Joe Kavanagh and Colin Corkery would be ahead of him on my list when county prejudice filters in.

Podsie O'Mahony (above) and Fergal Keohane were the dynamic duo out Ballincollig way for a while, and Colin Weste was one of the best underage footballers I ever saw. You could watch them play every week and be thrilled by some fresh score or dummy conjured out of nothing. Collig bias eh!

Looking further afield Mayo maestro Ciarán McDonald, Armagh goalpoacher Steven McDonnell, Galway's Padraig Joyce and the Tyrone crew of Peter Canavan (below), Owen Mulligan, Stephen O'Neill and co will always be favoured by me ahead of the Kerry contingent.

That Armagh and Tyrone saw off the Kingdom in All-Ireland finals where Cork couldn't certainly helped!

That's how rivalry works though, Cooper was a genius, but he wasn't a Cork genius.