Jonny Cooper is ready for action again
By Cian O'Connell
"I've sought to do it, but haven't done it very well," Jonny Cooper laughs when asked about striking a good balance in his life.
Gaelic Football has always featured high on the agenda, but Cooper, now 30, is eager to maintain high standards on and off the field of play.
"I got very poor points in my Leaving Cert because I played sports all the time and I thought that was going to be the be-all and end-all," Cooper continues.
"Then you're reevaluating, you're going back and you're trying to get into DCU and shift it all to academics because that's what pays in terms of getting you the ticket into college."
Lessons continued to be learned by Cooper, 30, and that is critical to develop further. "I've certainly tried, dabbled, and failed in lots of different ways," Cooper remarks.
"The age that I am now, I'm trying to survey what's gone on in the past, what's worked, what's not worked - lots has worked and lots has not worked.
"It's about trying to get that balance and invest time into my academics, which is important to me; invest time into my profession, which I am very ambitious to do; to grow and invest time into my life and family.
"Sports is a massive chunk of that. It's certainly not easy, there's certainly lots of trade-offs and there are times where you are under pressure.
"At the same time, that's the opportunity and that's the beauty of sport and trying to combine that with a life."
So do the knock backs and the demanding days which are endured make Cooper stronger in the long run?
"Sure," Cooper replies. "Just to speak to that directly: I've always got what I deserved, whether that's a failure, not getting points in the Leaving Cert or whether it's a sending off in an All-Ireland final. My opinion is I've always got what I deserved.
"It's important to reflect on those moments, go back into the eye of the storm, as difficult as it can be, and reflect, get feedback and take the facts of the situation, use the facts and the feeling to move on.
"When we're on a public stage and people are watching us on TV they can make very snapshot judgments (clicks fingers) of you as a person, as a character.
"That sometimes circles back around to you and people can have opinions on social media. You're trying then to filter and talk to people that are important - what is the reality of the situation: Am I this type of monster or am I actually okay or am I very good?
"I'm probably not any of them, but I'm trying to find out which one is appropriate at a particular time. Ultimately, I'm just a human being who's trying their best."
Following the drawn All Ireland against Kerry, did Cooper try to block out the noise on social media channels and elsewhere between that game and the replay?
"No, I wouldn't have been aware of it," Cooper answers.
"I'm currently not on, and wouldn't be on at that time of the year anyway, social media and stuff. Look, obviously people have direct access to you if they want, that's just the nature of if and that's what you sign up for. Nobody asked you to do it.
"Likewise, you don't have to watch the TV, you don't have to listen to the radio and so on. In saying all that, you have a job and you have a life, you have people and you have to walk around and drink a cup of tea or coffee, so people do ask you questions.
"People probably look at you funny and probably have certain opinions that they mightn't always say to you, but they may have certain opinions.
"What you're trying to do there - and again, I've fell on both sides of the stool; I've listened to it and I've not listened to it - is just take the facts out of a situation, to just move on from it as best as you can.
"The All-Ireland sending-off was a good example and a good opportunity and lesson for me as well."
Staying cool and composed, though, was a challenge and while Cooper acknowledges it was a testing stint, it was vital to remain focused.
"Yeah, it was tough, and the position I'm in now, I'm a more senior member of the squad," Cooper admits.
"It's not about me at the end of the day, but at the same time, when something happens you, you're trying to then filter that out. 'Okay, what's the facts of the situation?
"Do you deserve to be there? Yeah. Do the lads still have an opportunity in terms of the remainder of the game? Yeah, of course they did, so you're trying to have your body language, trying to have your communication, trying to be as normal as possible, and trying to be radiant in terms of a positive way, not trying to be radiant in terms of being closed.
"Those very, very small things I could control in that instance you're trying to influence. You're trying to juggle between yourself: will you play the next day? Do you deserve to play? Versus then, you're a guy, potentially, some people are looking towards for guidance.
"Some of them didn't play well and you're trying to lend yourself towards their opportunity or their challenge to get themselves better.
"Now - and it's very easy to have this conversation now - a great experience and such a learning experience, but at the same time the crosshairs were firmly between my two eyes, and that's what would have potentially came with it, which is something that could have came."
Having recently returned to Dublin training Cooper is available for selection ahead of the February 22 Allianz Football League encounter against Donegal at Croker Park.
Following the dramatic end to 2019 what will Cooper bring into the current campaign?
"I just think I need to do more training, do more focused training and be more disciplined around my efforts," the Na Fianna clubman states.
"Be more mindful when I see Dean Rock kicking 100 balls, maybe I'm not doing the same in my own field in terms of challenging myself.
"There's lots of other small things, but you get what you deserve in my opinion, and if I do the necessary work and the necessary research, I'll have an opportunity.
"I won't necessarily be right, but I'll have an opportunity so that's probably the main thing."
Cooper is ready, willing, and able to seize that chance under Na Fianna colleague Dessie Farrell, who is now in charge of Dublin.
Cooper's mind wanders back to the evenings and afternoons watching Na Fianna in action at Mobhi Road.
"I had three heroes if you like - Dessie, Jason Sherlock, and Senan Connell. They were the three and Geezer (Kieran McGeeney) as well, but he was outside of Dublin.
"I was really lucky to go to a game on a Wednesday night to watch them when they were available, I watched them play.
"Yeah I would have watched them, he had a fantastic spell underage with Dublin.
"He brought lots of current Dublin seniors under his old management systems.
"A really good guy, lots of experience with the GPA, very caring, compassionate, and empathetic towards the development of people never mind football, just about people.
"Obviously he is bringing in new - as he should - but new experiences and language and opinions around different things, how he would see the game, see us as individuals, and how he would see the team.
"The bits I have been around for in the last couple of weeks it certainly has been exciting maybe is the word. There is a pep in everyone's step with a new manager, a new boss, somebody new to have to please, to get the respect of - to try to get a jersey.
"All that taken into account, where we are in the season, Dessie himself coming in with new players it has been great to see that maybe we could do something together this season."