Jonny Cooper is ready for action again
By Eoghan Tuohey
Na Fianna’s premature departure from the Dublin Senior Football championship at the quarter final stage to Ballyboden St. Enda’s, though a heart-wrenching exit, granted All-Star defender Jonny Cooper some respite.
It also gave the highly rated Dublin star some much needed time to recover physically and mentally, before embarking on a history-chasing season in 2019.
Cooper now finds himself rejuvenated and eager to resume, even before 2018 has run its course, and is keen to be involved in every game, regardless of the competition, or the stakes on offer.
“Yeah for me, in my head it’s gone on maybe a little bit too long (the off-season), but I guess that’s a good thing as well that you get the itch to go back and now it’s a couple of weeks until Christmas and we are not really back until January and I’m building up, trying to take the edge off January for myself and a couple of other lads might be similar. It’s been a decent break on one side of it and also it’s a long enough period to try and fill too.”
Much has been made of the depth this current Dublin crop possess. Such are the underage structures in place, there is fresh talent unearthed each year, which consistently complements the already well established cohort. Eoin Murchan and Brian Howard were two shining examples who came to prominence. This pattern of discovering youthful excellence shows no signs of abating in the forthcoming campaign.
“It would be important (to draft in new talent each year),” Cooper admits. “Will it happen again? I’d like to think it can, and there is potential for it to happen and the examples of previous people coming through will be good for guys in that position to see there is a path or a journey you can go on if you are willing to commit.
"In my head there’s a couple that are there but again when you are put in that environment and from my experience I do know there are a lot of challenges there and what a big commitment it takes to back it up consistently. There’s a lot of potential and talent and intent from players wanting to do it and whether they can match that up on a consistent basis is probably the question from the opportunities they may get.
"I have a lot of trust in Eoin Murchan so it wasn't a great surprise to me in that sense. He kind of went from not being involved the previous year to being in the parade and that’s a testament to his own attitude and commitment.
"In fairness to him he was injured during the league and came in during the latter stages so I would have seen him coming up, my brother managed him all the way up and he'd have been talking about Eoin all the way up. His size is always the first thing thrown out, but it’s something he’s done extremely well with and coped with and his speed of thought and preparation, all that stuff is top notch. He didn’t surprise me but he did well, all based on merit.”
Such has been the dominance of this Dublin side of late, that their every action, reaction and method of preparation is being examined under scrutiny. With remarkable accomplishment, comes appraisal, judgement, and often, criticism.
Depictions of the panel as lacking emotion, or having restrictive personalities, incapable of expression have surfaced, but across all sports, there are few cases where a domineering side are allowed to simply dominate without their fair share of critics. It’s something this squad has had to get adapt to, and use as motivation, rather than allow it to negatively impact on their performance.
“I have a couple of thoughts on it, yeah,” Cooper replies. “We do get a lot of that “robots” stuff and we’re very strict and don't have personalities, and all that sort of stuff and I guess people take it on face value, they see us over 60 or 70 minute periods in a game and that’s a certain portion of our behaviour and they kind of see that as the rest of the picture for us which isn't the case.
“Then I guess there’s other things around money. Like everyone else in the country we still have to get up and do our gym session at whatever time, 6.30, 7.00am, use the same equipment, so from that point of view I can’t see the argument that it’s more money in totality going to Dublin, which equals success, which people obviously have that opinion about too.
Cooper is 29 now, and though still as fit and healthy as ever, will, like many inter-county players of a similar profile, be more aware of the career stage he finds himself in. This week saw the retirement of Limerick All-Ireland winner, Seamus Hickey, at 31. It’s a common perception that the modern inter-county game is built for a younger player.
It was put to Cooper that despite the undeniable competitiveness involved in securing a starting spot on the team, and despite his obvious willingness to throw himself into every opportunity to play, represent and impress, there comes a time when a more calculated, calm approach is needed, when he is required to listen to his body as much as to designate its movements to his own will.
“This season I’ve taken a slight different tack, too the way I’ve set myself up, normally I’d be well back in at this stage, but I am getting a little older, I’ve a lot more to give too, but maybe in terms of the load and impact, in case there are one or two niggles you might pick up later on.
"I think you’re conscious of it but I think everyone is, particularly around the hips and groins. Seamus is a good example, plus he had a lot of other commitments with family and the GPA. I think it’s always on people’s minds, that recovery and mobility, but there’s a lot more - I guess – to give from everyone.”