Colm Cooper excited by Kerry's potential
By Cian O'Connell
Colm Cooper is excited about the emergence of talented footballers in Kerry and expects manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice to give them a significant chance in the Championship.
Ultimately, hoisting Sam Maguire remains the target for Kerry every year, but Cooper feels that some of the successful four in a row All Ireland minor winning crop are set to feature.
"They lost up to Mayo here last year and there was kind of a rallying cry at home to introduce young blood, which he was done," Cooper answers when asked to assess where Kerry currently stand. "Bearing in mind the first Championship game is this weekend, I think potentially you could have five new starters for Kerry this weekend.
"So that's going to take time but time in Kerry and transition doesn't really come into the vocabulary really. They'll still expect to be in here in August and please God in September. That's what they'll be judged on.
"How would I assess their form? Mixed, started the league very well, great win against Donegal in Killarney, went up to Mayo beat them in Castlebar, which traditionally hasn't been a great hunting ground for Kerry. I said this is shaping up very nicely, people even got a bit ambitious then, saying they could be in a league final but it kind of petered out towards the League.
Cooper feels, though, that it was a beneficial spring for Kerry. "You had to play the young players, when you play young players, you're going to get inconsistent performances," Cooper adds.
"My hope is they can find, certainly by the time the Super 8s come around, that they're in there and they've an idea of their best 20 players. I'm still not sure they know them now at the moment because of all the young players coming through.
"So I think this weekend and hopefully if they get the Munster final, there might even be a bit of chopping and changing in there, but I think the aim, and this would be the same for a lot of teams, their aim is to get into the Super 8 and know exactly who their best 20 players are anyway. Then that's where Kerry are looking to be I think."
Sean O'Shea and David Clifford are amongst those Cooper reckons will be afforded game time against Clare on Sunday in Killarney.
"Yeah they're two," Cooper says. "Possibly Jason Foley. Like Ronan Shanahan played the League, we don't know if he's going to start. Gavin White from Dr Crokes, he'll be in with a shout if he's fit.
"Tom (O'Sullivan) played last year, but him and Briain Ó Beaglaoich are very young, he's played championship but maybe only once or twice. So of those gang, I think there's probably eight young guys going there and I think five of them might start."
Cooper, though, stresses that Kerry will treat Clare with the utmost respect, especially following some recent surprise results elsewhere.
"Absolutely and they have to be because Kerry - I was at the Kerry Clare match last year and Clare gave them plenty of it, hit the crossbar at the start of the second half and if that had gone in, things could have been much trickier," Cooper recalls.
"Now Clare coming to Killarney, it's a big ask for them to turn Kerry over. I'm not sure that'll happen but I think it'll be fine and competitive again and Eamonn Fitzmaurice will want a performance, but most importantly win the match and get to another Munster final to get as much time into the young players as possible, I think that's the big aim this weekend."