AFTER the bitter disappointment of Cork’s loss to Limerick back in August, Bill Cooper took refuge in the simple pleasure of hurling.
While it’s a far cry from All-Ireland day at Croker, Cooper has been involved in a few big games at Páirc Uí Rinn and Páirc Uí Chaoimh, in recent weeks.
Eligible to line out for county champions Imokilly in this campaign by virtue of Youghal’s relegation to the PIHC grade, Cooper has been his usual all-action self at midfield for the division. He’s part of a star-studded line-up, from Colm Spillane in defence to Seamus Harnedy and Paudie O’Sullivan up front.
Copper was particularly impressive in the semi-final defeat of UCC, where along with Fr O’Neill’s Mark O’Keeffe he took a firm grip on primary possession. What was billed as a potential classic against the College, ended up being a straightforward assignment.
The reward is an East Cork showdown with Midleton this Sunday.
“I’ve really enjoyed the last few weeks with Imokilly. We got a real scare against Newcestown in the quarter-final and we could easily have lost that one but I thought we were well set up against UCC.
“That was still a tough game. We only got a few scores in the second half to push on really. Midleton will be another level again because we all know how good their hurlers are. They’ve the big names like Conor (Lehane) and Luke (O’Farrell) but their underage is going well too.”
He couldn’t bring himself to watch the All-Ireland final in August. He didn’t begrudge Limerick their subsequent success but he had hightailed it to Killarney for a week of rest and relaxation.
“The way we lost to Limerick was just so disappointing. You’d obviously be thinking back about things we could have done differently. Mistakes we made, as a team and mistakes I made myself, and that’s just how sport is.
“We’re on the right track. We’ve won the last two Munster titles but then we couldn’t get over the line in the semi-finals at Croke Park.
“There’s no point in worrying too much about that now because we’ll have plenty of work to do just to get back to that stage. We’ll be training again before the year is out and we’ll go hard in the league and the Munster championship is hugely competitive too.”
Cooper has thoroughly enjoyed hurling for the division again. His Cork debut under Denis Walsh in 2011 came in the wake of his displays for Imokilly, then managed by Ronan Dwane, and the Cork intermediates.
“I never played for Cork at minor or U21. I wasn’t strong enough or going well enough.
“It took me an extra year or two to make the breakthrough but I do feel, that in Cork, there are always opportunities for players.”
Rugby was another passion of his as a teenager and clearly, that has stood to him given the controlled aggression he brings to games now. A back injury set him back in 2012 before steering Youghal to the Premier Intermediate crown in 2013 and returning to the Cork fold.
“We had a great season with Youghal to win that county but we’ve just had a bad run lately. We’ll get it together again because the work going on underage from U16 down is excellent and there are still good hurlers on our panel.”
Naturally, club hurling is hugely important to the 30-year-old but he has a genuine respect for the division as well.
“Look, when I was starting out I hurled a lot for Imokilly and I learned a massive amount playing at that level.
“We’ve a great management team in Imokilly at the moment (headed up by Fergal Condon) and there’s a tight bond in the panel. We played a good few challenge matches and we’ve been training hard over the last few weeks.”
They’re heavy favourites this weekend against Midleton and that’s hardly surprising.
An already strong panel was bolstered by Cooper and Spillane’s availability and last year’s Rearden’s County final Man of the Match, Ger Millerick and Deccie Dalton were only subs in the semi-final.
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