HE MAY NOW have the number 14 stitched onto the back of his jersey but Colm Cooper’s football output remains at the same high level.
Last Saturday Kerry tapped into a rich vein of form once more on the qualifier road as they claimed success against Tyrone with Cooper at the heart of their attacking efforts. Their captain fitted in seamlessly at full-forward as he struck five points yet he is keen to clear up one matter about his jersey change this season. There is no piseog at the root behind his move from the traditional number 13 that he wore in previous years.
“It seems strange doesn’t it?”, Cooper told TheScore.ie. “But I don’t even think about it. I get on with it. It’s not a case of changing too much. I went in full-forward against Westmeath and I tried a little bit again on Saturday. We’re just chopping and changing a lot to see how we can improve. I’m happy playing 13, I’ve used it all my life but wherever I’m picked I’ll take that jersey.”
Kerry’s success has revived their campaign and Cooper detected in the build-up to the match that their form was improving.
“I knew that our season was hotting up a little bit. It probably took a little bit longer than we thought but to do it at home in front of our own fans against a team like Tyrone, you couldn’t ask for a better script. I think we were five or six weeks without a game going into the Westmeath game and that definitely has an impact and I’ve said that for the last four or five years. It’s very hard to keep form and sharpness. On Saturday we tackled ferociously all over the field. Everyone across every line upped it a gear or two.”
The significance of the triumph for Kerry was reflected in Cooper’s exuberant celebrations when he fired over a later point.
“I got a bit excited. Like I say, it was just a high-octane game, the intensity, and I was just nearly out on my feet so I was just delighted that the ball went dead and the fact that it went over the bar. There was just a lot at stake in this game. If we lost we were gone and just to get through to the next round is great. To hear the atmosphere when we came out on the field and as the game went on and on it was great. We felt we owed our supporters a big performance as well and to do it in Killarney, it was just the icing on the cake.”
Any anxieties over Kerry’s form were soothed in the wake of their triumph on Saturday but such talk does not influence Cooper and the focus quickly switches to next Saturday’s round four qualifier clash with Clare in the Gaelic Grounds.
“There’s talk ever since I put on a Kerry jersey, there’s talk following me and one day you can be great, the next day you’re over the hill. That’s part and parcel of Gaelic football at the moment and be it right or wrong that’s always there.
“There’ll be a lot of energy that will be needed again next week. It was really warm out there, high intensity game so it’ll be today or tomorrow before we’ll be able to do any meaningful session. I’m sure Jack is very clever, he won’t kill us this week and it’s all about rehab now.”