We don't want it to be over.
Less than a month after winning the All-Ireland Club title with Dr. Crokes, Colm "Gooch" Cooper will announce his inter-county retirement later today. In his career, he won five All-Ireland titles, nine Munster Championships, four National Leagues and now an All-Ireland Club title. He also won eight All-Stars in his 15 year career.
And while the honours list is significant and impressive, it doesn't tell the whole story. That this was probably the best Gaelic footballer many of us have ever seen.
Colm Keys in the Irish Independent is reporting this morning that this morning that Cooper met with Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice the week after the Crokes win to discuss his plans, while Paschal Sheehy on RTE's Morning Ireland said that Cooper has prepared a statement that Fitzmaurice will deliver on his behalf at a press conference later today.
Since coming into the Kerry team in 2002 as an 18 year old, who looked about 12, he was has mesmerised us, and his opponents. A game against Kildare in the Qualifiers that year was his coming out party.
From there, he quickly became one of the best forwards in the country, and we all knew we were witnessing something special.
There was a couple of games against Dublin in particular that stick out this morning.
In 2009, when Gooch was "off-form" in what looked to be an off year for Kerry. They'd been well beaten by Cork in Munster, then stumbled through the qualifiers with narrow wins against Longford, Sligo and Antrim. Cooper was being heavily criticised by the time the Quarter Final came around against the Dublin hype machine. But as soon as he got to Croke Park, this happened:
It set the tone for a 17 point hammering. Cooper would go on to score 1-7 in the game, and a month later, would be lifting Sam for the fourth time. He scored six points in that final against Cork and ended up as the top-scorer in the Championship.
The other game was a defeat to Dublin in one of the greatest games ever played - the 2013 All-Ireland semi final. Under Eamonn Fitzmaurice, the greatest corner-forward of all time was reinvented as a playmaking centre-forward. And he was unbelievable there. Even better in many ways. His amazing pass to Donnchadh Walsh which set up a first half goal in that game epitomised everything about Colm Cooper the centre-forward. Just amazing and leaving Croke Park that day - the day the best Dublin team of all time showed us what they were made of - many of us were talking about The Gooch.
The following year, Cooper missed his final All-Ireland win when a cruciate ruined his year. I had great All-Ireland Final seats for that game against Donegal, sitting just yards away from the Kerry bench in the Hogan Stand. Gooch togged out for the game and was named among the substitutes. There was no evidence that he was going to play - he would have been way ahead of schedule, but even as an enthralling All-Ireland Final was happening in front of us, we never went more than two or three minutes without having a look over to the bench to see what he was up to? Would we see him?
We didn't, but that's really the measure of the man. It was the All-Ireland final but we couldn't help but focus on the injured player on the bench. He was a superstar. The very definition of a superstar. The game will be lesser for him not being there.