Former manager Jack O’Connor says Kerry still have a chance of winning the All-Ireland this year despite the absence of Colm Cooper.
The three-time All-Ireland winning manager told RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta that Cooper’s loss could take some of the pressure of Eamonn Fitzmaurice, and that senior players will have to step up to the mark to fill the void left by their missing talisman.
"Like everyone in Kerry I was very disappointed when I heard that Colm was out for the season," said O’Connor.
"I suppose people were disappointed all over the country because Colm Cooper is not an ordinary player. He has that special magic.
"It’s a great loss for his club, for Kerry and for a lot of neutrals around the country because they get so much satisfaction from watching Colm play in the Championship. He attracted people who have little interest in football to watch games.
"You cannot replace Colm. He is one of a kind. He is great for directing play, incredibly smart, and he is always thinking quicker than anybody else on the field.
"He could see things that nobody else could see and has such a skill range that he improves the players that are around him," O'Conner insisted.
"Kerry are going through a rebuilding phase, and 'Gooch' was great for helping the new lads and putting them on the right road. Kerry will greatly miss his leadership in that respect.
"While it is a huge loss, it does give other players the chance to step up. People like Bryan Sheehan and Kieran Donaghy will have to stand up now and make their mark. Because of injury and loss of form these two guys did not play much last year. Now is their chance.
"In a strange way Colm’s absence will take some of the pressure of Eamonn Fitzmaurice. I see the bookmakers think Kerry have no chance of winning the All-Ireland now! Kerry still have a strong panel with players like James O’Donoghue coming to the fore. They are still capable of being a force in September."
"He (Cooper) is always thinking quicker than anybody else on the field" - Jack O'Connor
Naturally O'Connor is hopeful that the Green and Gold squad stays injury-free in the months ahead.
"Kerry were unlucky in a way last season. They carried a lot of injuries to players like Sheehan, Killian Young and Anthony Maher through the year. If they can avoid more injuries, and the players step up to the mark, they have a good chance this year.
"I remember in 2004, when I was in charge of Kerry for the first time, we lost Seamus Moynihan and Darragh Ó Sé through injury. If anyone had said that we would be able to win the All-Ireland without those guys no-one would have believed them.
"Kerry still have a chance of winning the All-Ireland this year, but it is more difficult for them now."