In the latest instalment of our popular Smalltalk feature, Adam Moynihan talks to Dr Crokes and Kerry legend Colm Cooper, the man considered by many to be the greatest Gaelic footballer of all time. Pic: Eamonn Keogh.
Well Colm. Thanks for talking to me.
This conversation isn’t coming at a great time for me considering what happened on Sunday… Everything went wrong for Legion, but what went right for Crokes?
Ah look, that’s sport. You have days where things work for you and days where they don’t. For us, so much went right and it went the opposite way for Legion. I think our intensity was much better the last day. We tackled really well and our work rate in general was much better than it has been in the past few weeks. That made all the difference.
When you have some of the talented guys we have up front, they have the ability to put teams to the sword and that’s just how it turned on Sunday. Everything we touched turned to gold. It was just one of those days.
Tony Brosnan is turning a lot of heads with his performances of late. Some people are even saying that he might start for Kerry next year. Do you think he has the tools to make it at the next level?
It’s hard to argue with his form at the moment. To be fair to him, he was excellent for us all year. He broke his hand during the summer which set him back a small little bit but he has come back really strong again. His form has been excellent.
He’s a real scoring forward. In the current game, many teams look for hard-working forwards but Tony – while he is hard-working – is a scorer first and foremost. That’s what I like about him. I suppose I would’ve felt that I was that type of player as well, particularly when I was Tony’s age.
So yeah, he has been really good for us and I just hope he can continue his form. He’s gone to a new level for us this year, which is great.
Crokes will face Rahilly’s in the county semi-final next weekend. Do you feel like you owe them one after what happened a few weeks back?
You could look at it that way but, at the end of the day, it’s a county semi-final and we’ll be going out to beat them. I wouldn’t worry too much about the revenge factor. The prize for us is to get back into a county final and that has been the aim all year. However we do it and whoever we beat, we don’t really mind. We were disappointed with how the match finished against them the last time but to say it’s a “revenge mission”… I wouldn’t go that far.
They’re a good team. We’ve played against these guys in quarter-finals and semi-finals – they’re always knocking around so they have a lot of experience built up. We played them in the Club Championship earlier in the year and it was a really close match so they don’t fear Crokes, that’s for sure. We’ll have to be at our best and playing in Tralee is a boost for them. Hopefully we’ll be ready. I don’t think we’re carrying any injuries from the Legion game, which is important.
Let’s talk about work. You were recently appointed Assistant Manager at AIB here in Killarney. I believe you were in Dublin for a couple of years prior to that. Are you happy to be back in your hometown?
It’s great. I started here back in 2005 so it has kind of gone full circle. I’ve been here, I’ve been in Tralee and different parts of Kerry and I also had a stint in Dublin. To get back to Killarney and East Kerry, and to be dealing with a lot of people I know from Killarney and the surrounding areas, is great.
Everybody has financial needs, whether it’s mortgages or whatever, so it’s a busy branch. But we have a good team of people here and it’s fun.
And the punditry seems to be going well with RTÉ. Are you enjoying it?
I am. I probably enjoyed this year more. The first year was difficult because I was still close to the Kerry lads and I probably had the Kerry hat on a little bit. But I felt that this year I was a bit more detached. I was really retired and gone from the set-up, which allows you to be more honest and more frank – particularly about Kerry because people naturally have an interest in how I feel Kerry are going. People maybe feel as though I have an inside track, which isn’t the case.
I think GAA people by and large are very educated people and if you’re not telling the truth, they’ll see right through you. The way I’ve approached it in studio is that you’re having a conversation with guys who know the GAA backwards, and that’s the way to treat it. The beauty of it is we don’t always agree, but it has been good. I’ve enjoyed it. Is it going to be a long-term thing? I don’t know. But I certainly enjoyed it this year.
You touched on it there, and it’s something I’ve had to deal with myself, speaking about your own club or your own county. Do you find that difficult? Do you think there are expectations on you to “look after your own”, so to speak?
Yeah, like I said, I found it more difficult last year because I retired in April and I was on the television in May, and I was writing for the Examiner as well. What I found out very quickly is that if you’re not being honest, you won’t be writing the best articles. Chatting to guys who had done it before me, I learned I had to be myself, be honest and be frank.
People might not always like what you write but the way I played throughout my career, I always set high standards. I was critical of myself when I didn’t meet them and I asked a lot of my teammates as well. You’d be hopeful, particularly in Kerry with the standards the county has set for such a long time, that they meet the high standards. And when they don’t, you have to call it out. I think if players and people around are fair about it, they understand that as well.
I have a few quick questions about your teammates. A nice easy one to start with: who’s the best player you’ve ever played with?
Ah Jesus… A nice easy one is right. You could toss a coin between Séamus Moynihan and Darragh Ó Sé. I learned from those guys what it meant to play for Kerry, the responsibility that it brought and what winning is all about. I enjoyed playing with those two guys and I learned more from them than anyone else in my career.
Who’s the best athlete you’ve ever played with?
We had a lot of them. Thinking back to my early days with Kerry we had Seán O’Sullivan, Eoin Brosnan, Donnchadh Walsh was like a marathon runner, Darran had the speed, Tomás Ó Sé was just up and down the field all day… I would probably say Seán and Eoin. They were just specimens. They were well-built, strong, they could cover ground and they could score.
Which of your teammates, past or present, would you least like to get stuck in a lift with?
Galvin. God only knows where that conversation would go!
Who has the worst dress sense?
Well Paul is obviously a bit out there but I’ll say Kieran O’Leary.
Who spends the most time in the gym?
Yeah. Every time I talk to him it’s, “I’m just out of the gym” or “I’m on my way to the gym”. I don’t know what he’s doing in there – I don’t know is he just looking in the mirror or what. But he is in good shape in fairness.
This is a tricky one. Who’s the best at Tinder?
Oh… I don’t even know who’s on Tinder. Maybe some of the young Crokes lads in college?
A lot of the Crokes boys have girlfriends I suppose…
Yeah. We better be careful with this question! Probably some of the younger lads but I don’t know. Maybe that tells its own story. I’m so far removed from the younger generation that I don’t even know who’s on it!
Who was your toughest ever opponent?
I’d have to name a few. Marc Ó Sé in club matches, Ryan McMenamin from Tyrone – we had big battles – and Philly McMahon in more recent years with the Dubs. Anthony Lynch in my earlier days with Kerry as well. He was a fella I found it hard against.
But Marc was probably as tough a draw as any of them. If I was going well in training against Marc, I knew I was ready for big games in Croke Park. That was always a fairly accurate assessment.
What’s your proudest sporting memory?
There are two that stand out. My first All-Ireland medal with Kerry in ’04 when we beat Mayo is one. I got Man of the Match and when you win your first one, you never forget it. Well, I don’t know do you remember the partying or do you forget it, but we had a good few weeks after!
The Crokes as well on Paddy’s Day in Croke Park. I had been very open about the fact that I wanted to win the All-Ireland Club and it took around 20 years to do it, so there was a lot of satisfaction in that one. The odd time at home you walk past the photos and you take another look and I probably showed more emotion that evening than I did for any of the other big ones.
And the most embarrassing?
Just the usual ones. Shorts falling down and walking around in my underpants, and missing 14-yard frees.
What are your favourite sports outside of the GAA?
I play golf and I enjoy it, although I’m not playing as much as I thought I would be. I’m a member in Killarney so I’ve no excuse. I watch soccer as well and I’m a big Liverpool fan, and I watch a lot of horse racing too.
Have you been to see the Lakers yet this season?
No, I haven’t, but it’s on my to-do list. I think that could be the winter routine now, to get to the Lakers matches on Saturday nights. There’s a great buzz above there. Is Botty on the microphone?
He was for the first game, yeah.
That’s a reason that I maybe wouldn’t go, because Botty would take the p*** out of me!
He would. He went straight for Cliffy the last day.
Yeah. I’ll have to find out if Botty is doing the match before I go.
Do you have any superstitions?
Just stupid ones that don’t make sense. I put my left sock on first because I’m left-footed.
I just do it naturally now. I see some guys doing extraordinary things. They’d be walking around in circles in the dressing room. Do you know what? The reason footballers are superstitious is because when you’re preparing for a big match, you become nervous. You go to a default setting and it’s whatever relaxes you and gives you confidence, so that you’re right in your headspace.
Is there an app on your phone you couldn’t live without?
I think I could live without Twitter but it’s where I get my news now. WhatsApp as well. That’s where we have our group chat with Crokes and to be honest you get more news there than anywhere else.
What’s your most-used emoji?
Your man swinging a golf club, to see if I can get any few soldiers to go golfing at the weekend.
What’s the last show you binge-watched? Are you a Netflix person?
I go through phases. I love Suits and I was big into Narcos. If I had a few hours spare I could definitely do a Sunday evening binge on those. Particularly when you’re playing football at this time of the year, we don’t be out that much so there’s plenty of time for Netflix. That’s my guilty pleasure.
Who’s your favourite band/artist?
I listen to anyone, really. I like Coldplay.
What about karaoke? What would you sing?
I’m a good man to join in at karaoke but not when I’m taking the lead role!
And last one… Can you tell me a joke?
What did the left eye say to the right eye?
I don’t know.
Between you and me, something smells.
Good one, Gooch!