Pat Spillane has backed Colm Cooper to overcome the anterior cruciate ligament injury that has ruled the Kerry forward out of this year’s Championship.
Cooper picked up the injury while playing for his club Dr Crokes in Saturday's All-Ireland semi-final against Castlebar Mitchels from Mayo.
Spillane said: “Will Gooch come back? No doubt about it. What Gooch has is a skill level and a footballing brain that no other Gaelic footballer possesses. You don't lose that through having a knee operation."
“This is like taking Messi out of Barcelona or Ronaldo out of Real Madrid” - Pat Spillane
He added: “This is like taking Messi out of Barcelona or Ronaldo out of Real Madrid. Gooch is a once-off. He is the greatest Gaelic football forward I have seen and is irreplaceable.
“It is a massive blow to Kerry football and Gooch as well. Gooch is Kerry's captain, talisman and spiritual leader. He is by a million miles Kerry's best player and still the best Gaelic footballer in this country. He is a massive, massive loss and it is coming at a bad time for Kerry.
“We have already lost two of our leaders through retirement, Paul Galvin and Tomás Ó Sé, it is coming at time when this Kerry team is in transition and we badly need the experience and leadership that Gooch brings.
“I think I was the first inter-county footballer to come back and play after a cruciate knee ligament injury. That was back in 1982, I was 27 years of age when I had the operation, I was 28 when I came back and I firmly believe I came back mentally and physically stronger prior to the operation.
I believe the best football I played was after the cruciate ligament operation.”
Looking forward to the great mans return in 2015 He's gonna be rested & hungry so the rest beware. Can't hold a great man down! #Gooch— Darran O'Sullivan (@Darransull86) February 18, 2014