COLM COOPER IS confident that Kerry’s kick-passing football is the way forward as they look for championship redemption.
Changes to the square ball rule as well as Donegal’s success with the handpass in 2011 have led to concerns that counties may turn to more defensive, direct strategies this summer.
Cooper was one of the first footballers to give his thoughts on the square ball last week, suggesting that there is potential for chaos now that players are allowed to enter the square once the ball has been kicked.
And while Kerry boss Jack O’Connor and his backroom staff are considering their attacking and defensive options under the rule, the Dr Crokes forward says that any new tactics won’t come at the expense of their traditional style.
“I know Jack and the lads have been talking about it to see how we can utilise it more and hopefully plan how we can defend against it as well,” he said at the launch of Opel’s Kit for Clubs scheme in Croke Park earlier this week.
“Every management is just looking at it now to see how it’s panning out before they make exact plans for so we’ll be watching it closely.
You might see it in counties where they put a big man in at the top of the square with the idea that he might upset goalkeepers and full-backs. You might see a little bit of that but at the same time, I think there’s certainly a role for the agile players in there as well.
I don’t think you’ll see all teams just lamping balls in on top of the square, I think it’ll be a bit more expansive than that. Maybe late on in games, that’s where you might see it.
As he prepares for his 11th championship season in green and gold, Cooper stresses that Kerry’s catch-and-kick football is not something that can be changed easily; it’s in their blood.
“Traditionally, Kerry have always been a catch and kick team going right back to the 70s and 80s. Kerry were always a long-ball team, kicking balls. I think it’s probably bred into some of us. Most people in Kerry are advocates of kicking the ball so I don’t think we have too many coaches too interested in hand-passing the ball.”
Nor is there any trade-off between playing attractive football and success at the business end of the season, he adds.
I suppose you have to have a little bit of everything in your game, but traditionally we’ve always been a catch-and-kick team. More often than not, we’re able to strike a balance between going long and keeping it tight when we need to. I think traditionally, we’re a better team when we’re kicking the ball. We’ve been more successful and won when we’re kicking the ball a lot.
Tipperary has long been a hurling stronghold at the expense of football but in recent years, the Premier have started to make their presence felt with the big ball at underage levels, winning the Munster championship in 2010 and an All-Ireland minor title last year.
The fruits of that labour are beginning to filter up into the senior panel and, ahead of Sunday’s Munster championship quarter-final in Semple Stadium, Cooper stresses that Kerry are taking nothing for granted.
“You can see that they’re putting in huge amounts of work in the county. That’s the same across a couple of counties, they’re making big inroads.
Coming from a county like Tipperary where hurling is always the number one, it’s great to see. You can see what Dublin have done in the hurling as well over the last two years and the progress they’ve made.
It’s probably a worry for the more traditional counties that everyone else is coming to catch up with them but that’s great for the GAA.