"We are creating some good memories" - Jonny Cooper
By Michael Devlin
One of the video clips doing the social media rounds in the wake of Saturday’s All-Ireland Football Final was of Dublin’s Jonny Cooper, meticulously making his way around each of the disconsolate Kerry players and management to shake hands and offer commiserations.
Cooper’s team-mates were already lining up the steps of the Hogan Stand ready to historically lift the Sam Maguire for the fifth successive season, but Cooper was making sure to pay his respect to his gallant foes before indulging in the celebrations.
Speaking to GAA.ie minutes after the final whistle, it was clear the admiration Cooper had for a Kerry team that so nearly ended Dublin’s five-in-a-row assault.
“You have to mention Kerry,” he says as he untangles the gold ticker tape strewn across Croke Park’s pitch from his boots. “Going to a replay, a very tough opponent, they are there for the long haul so massive respect to them.
"Obviously, you’ve gotta feel for Kerry who are inside there. They are a quality team, setup, management. So we are just grateful that we got a second opportunity against them.”
A second opportunity for Dublin, and a second opportunity for Cooper. The Na Fianna man’s duel with David Clifford was at the centre of the action in the first half of the drawn game. He struggled to deal with Clifford from the outset, and a tug on the Fossa man led to Kerry’s penalty, although Stephen Cluxton saved Paul Geaney’s effort from the spot. One foul too many though led to Cooper receiving his marching orders from referee David Gough before halftime.
He had a point to prove in the replay, and he brushed off the previous game’s controversy with an assured display in the heart of Dublin's defense. Time and again Cooper was there to restrict the space for Geaney and Clifford, and he was the essence of confidence carrying the ball out of defence.
His sense of satisfaction not only with his own performance but of his team's was clear to see for the experienced defender as he took stock after the match, even if the words were not coming so readily.
“It’s hard to describe or put into words this early after a game. We are just delighted for the group, and the effort we put in.
“Seeing this, all the kids and brothers and sisters, cousins. Every team trains as hard as they can, and we’ve been very lucky and blessed in the last few years that things have gone in our favour on the big days. We are creating some good memories.”
After a first half for the ages then ended ten points apiece, Eoin Murchan’s goal from the second half throw-in pushed Dublin on, and gave them a cushion that was expertly maintained throughout the second half. It was a masterclass in game management from Jim Gavin’s side, as the energy in the Kerry legs drained out and Dublin finished strong.
“We got an early score there with Eoin, and that put them on the back foot a little bit. Credit to them, they kept at it. There were a few points in it, but we just had a bit of momentum, and managed to control the game a little bit more.
“We tried to control the ball as best we can. We would have liked to have maybe probed and score a little bit more, but hey, we just managed it on the scoreboard and kept them out as best we can.
“We’ll just enjoy the moment” says Cooper when asked does the ‘five-in-a-row’ now be given the full acknowledgment from the Dublin players and management, after weeks and months of playing the notion down. “The young fellas will take it on, and we’ll go again next time around.”