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Kerry legend Gooch is a huge fan of Harte and Cross

By Declan Bogue

Kerry legend Colm 'Gooch' Cooper has admitted there was widespread bemusement in Kerry over August and September when Mickey Harte's future as Tyrone manager was in question.

Harte's Tyrone, along with Dublin in 2011, 2013 and this year, are the only two sides to have beaten Kerry three times in Cooper's Championship career in green and gold, and he concedes that Harte has fashioned another side capable of winning the Sam Maguire.

"I've seen comments about 'Mickey has to go' and 'Sean Cavanagh has to retire' which can be silly at times but they don't mind that - they're strong-minded and they'll roll with the punches," Cooper said in a visit to Abbey CBS as an AIB ambassador.

After reaching the All-Ireland semi-final this year, Cooper said: "They're most certainly on the way back.

"Mickey is an amazing guy for building a team. He built an awesome team when they were there in the 2000s, they maybe slipped a little but they seem to be making their way back again.

"I'm sure he'll find another couple of players next year in the league so they will feel they're in the top four or five teams in the country and if you're in that mix you've a chance every year.

"They're a tough gang. They keep coming back for more. They've had a few tough years, getting beaten in qualifiers and not making it and people are very quick to wash players and wash managements."

As someone who has come up against them in the flesh in his own treasured black and amber colours of his Dr Croke's club, Cooper also had warm praise for the continuing excellence of Crossmaglen Rangers, who reached the Ulster final last Sunday with a fully-deserved win over Kilcoo.

"It's phenomenal how they keep coming back," he said.

"They've been away for two years and people spell the end of you; that you're gone but they keep turning things around.

"They're very much a family-based club and they drive the standards they expect of each other. Their record haul is unbelievable - Aaron Kernan, the McEntees… if you go through what those guys won it's phenomenal. But the most impressive thing is the longevity of it and the consistency of it."

He added: "I don't know how they keep it going. We've seen it in Kerry, we were lucky enough to win four county titles in a row in Kerry and that took every bit of it out of us and we know how hard it is to do those kinds of things."

As a mainstay of the last county team to achieve back-to-back All-Ireland titles, Cooper declares himself unconvinced that Dublin are, as suggested in many quarters, poised for a period of dominance in Gaelic football.

"They are there on merit," he says.

"If you look at the demographics of the team they're a young team by and large so they're going to be around for the foreseeable future.

"Now, the dangerous talk is that four or five All-Irelands. We heard that in 2011 after they won that one and then they lost to Mayo (2012) and Donegal in 2014, so that's dangerous talk."

Relating their own experiences, he said: "We know more than anyone else how hard it is to win back-to-back first of all so I'm sure they will be concentrating on that first.

"We've had a few goes at it and were lucky to do it in 2006/2007. It's very difficult to do, you need to keep the hunger up.

"You need a lot of things to go right. You need to keep clear of injuries, which is easier said than done given the training that goes on and the club structure at the moment.

"So it's loose talk to say Dublin can come along and win everything. Yes, they have the population, yes they have the resources, but that alone won't get them there I'm afraid."

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