GAA

Joe Brolly Has Buried The Hatchet With The Gooch

Joe Brolly Has Buried The Hatchet With The Gooch

Over his gilded career, no one was more critical of Colm Cooper that Joe Brolly. Over the years, the Derryman used his numerous newspaper columns to question the perceived greatness of Cooper, most notably during chokergate of 2012, following Crossmaglen's win over Crokes in 2012 in the club semifinal.

As late as September 2015, after a grittier Dublin team suffocated Kerry in a grim All-Ireland final, Brolly was rubbishing Cooper in the national media.

My point is that he is not a leader. In adversity, he fails.

When the heat is turned up, he disappears, starting with the second half in 2002 against Armagh... Or the trilogy against Tyrone. Or the second half of the 2013 semi-final against Dublin when Cian O'Sullivan picked him up. Or 2012 against Donegal when he was entirely anonymous and looked like he simply gave up.

Brolly seemed convinced the Gooch was a player for the youtube reel, a star of the first half, a forward who stole the plaudits while others toiled around him anonymously.

So of all the tributes to Cooper today, Brolly's is the most telling. Without a hint of sarcasm or snark, Brolly praised Cooper's genius of touch and his magical dummies on Today With Sean O'Rourke.

"He was the ultimate purveyor of skill. He was almost a computer animated footballer. He would deliver a ball like a butler on a silver platter.

"The other thing was the deftness of touch, so that he would deliver the ball to his colleague's advantage. He could bounce it in front of him, he could put it in his chest. It was a thing of beauty.

"I coach a series of dummies with my underage teams and we have the Owen Mulligan and the Colm McFadden, but the Colm Cooper is impossible to coach. Of all the years I've spent watching football, I still can't figure out what he was doing.

His football was very special and something that anyone who saw it, especially in his prime, will treasure"

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It's quite a change in tune. Perhaps it was on St Patrick's Day when the Gooch finally proved himself to Brolly. That bleak evening, Cooper spearheaded Crokes's physical and at times cynical win over brittle Ulster opposition.

Back in 2012, Brolly said of Cooper: “I’m looking at Colm alongside Sheehy, Egan, Spillane — footballers of that ilk. The point I make is all those guys seemed to find a way to be able to impose themselves on games, no matter what.

Anyone who watched Cooper harry and hassle his way through that match against Slaughtneil will know that the Gooch has retired after finally proving Brolly wrong. The Gooch was in his own half of the field when the final whistle was blown. Here was final proof that he was willing to do all the hard graft it takes to be a leader.

Donny Mahoney

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