'Rare to achieve ultimate dreams' - Cooper officially retires from inter-county football

'Gooch' during last summer's All-Ireland semi-final
'Gooch' during last summer's All-Ireland semi-final

Colm Cooper has officially retired from inter-county football after an illustrious career.

The 33-year-old released the following statement this morning:

"Today I wish to announce my retirement from the Kerry senior football team.

"It has been an amazing journey and one that I never wanted to end, however, I feel that this is the right time for me step away from inter-county football. Representing the Kingdom for the past seventeen years has given me a tremendous amount of pride and satisfaction.

"To my Kerry teammates that I have soldiered with throughout the years, thank you for your guidance, patience and friendship. I feel extremely lucky to have experienced so many wonderful highlights with you all.

"To get the opportunity to play with, and against, some of the greatest players in the history of the GAA has given me memories that I will always treasure.

"During my career I have been very fortunate to work with some outstanding Kerry managers. They gave me the confidence to develop my game which allowed me to perform at the highest level.

"I would like to thank the Kerry county board, backroom staff and medical teams for their constant help and support throughout my career.

"A huge thank you to the loyal Kerry fans at home and abroad for their continuous support. I now become a supporter and wish the team all the best in their quest for honours in 2017.

"I would like to thank my club Dr. Crokes for nurturing my talents and giving me the belief that there was no limit to what I could achieve, also to get the opportunity to captain Kerry teams is something I’m extremely privileged to have done.

"I’m looking forward to continuing my Dr. Crokes career.

"Finally to my family, without you none of my successes would have been possible. Through the ups and downs, you were the people that believed in me and kept me going. For this I am forever grateful.

"It is very rare for people to achieve their ultimate dreams in life - I just have."

Less than three weeks after his All-Ireland club triumph with Dr Crokes on St Patrick's Day, 'Gooch' has brought down the curtain down on a career that lit up Croke Park, Fitzgerald Stadium and just about every other venue he graced.

Cooper's place in Gaelic football history was already long assured but a debate about where exactly that spot is will now be re-ignited.

He is regarded by many as the greatest player of the modern age, with a range of skills, vision and creativity that few, if any, could match.

Making his Championship debut in 2002 as a 19-year-old, he was the consummate finisher who later became the conductor of the Kingdom orchestra as his career moved on.

Cooper played in nine All-Ireland finals, winning four in 2004, '06, '07 and '09.

There was bitter disappointment too, notably when he captained Kerry to defeat in the 2011 All-Ireland final, having scored an early goal with a typically cold-blooded finish.

The 33-year-old overcame a serious knee injury - ruptured cruciate ligament and fractured knee-cap - in a 2014 All-Ireland club semi-final against Castlebar Mitchels, and missed most of that summer campaign which ended with All-Ireland final victory over Donegal. But he made it back to play his part in the 2015 Championship.

Prior to that, he had been involved in 76 consecutive Championship games for Kerry.

He was top or joint-top scorer in six of the nine All-Ireland finals he played.

He accumulated 4-34 from those nine finals but was held scoreless in his last one against Dublin in 2015, the only Championship game in Croke Park that he drew a blank in.

He finished a 14th season with Kerry with another defeat to Dublin in the 2016 All-Ireland semi-final, his 85th Championship game, but spent the winter and spring driving his Killarney-based club Dr Crokes to a first All-Ireland title in 25 years after so many near-misses.

Colm Keys