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Better to deal with defeats now, insists Jonny

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Michael Dara MacauleyDublin. Photo: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

Michael Dara MacauleyDublin. Photo: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

Michael Dara MacauleyDublin. Photo: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

HOW do you define or contextualise league defeats and/or bad performances for defending All-Ireland champions?

Momentary and unavoidable lulls for a team with a higher purpose and a later start date are symptomatic, potentially, of corrosive properties which will, inevitably, kill their ambitions?

"That's two kicks in the hole we've gotten now. One from Cork and one from Derry," is Jonny Cooper's blunt interpretation of Dublin's pair of losses in Division 1 of the Allianz League thus far.

"And better to deal with it now than brush it under the carpet." And deal with it, Cooper does.

"Little things aren't really coming off for us," he admits. "You could see it in the Cork game and to an extent, the Derry game. To an extent, we're missing that final bit.

"It's not through lack of application. And the willingness to get involved in things is there. It's just that the end result isn't there."

Annoying? Worrisome? Shades of both? "I think we're all of that nature that we are angry about it. In fairness, the lads are ... I wouldn't say concerned about it, but they want to put the shoulder to the wheel.

"Going to Derry was tough. But it was good. It's nice to get on the road and build a bit of character and yeah, we were a bit off. But we're probably better for it in terms of experience."

Last year, it all went so smoothly. And for Cooper himself, this season's league has featured a slight variation on his 2013 theme.

For a start, he has begun all five of Dublin's matches in the half-back line but has, thrice, been required further back as a Rory O'Carroll-less full-back unit has struggled with the tempo of the best forwards in the division, most notably against Cork and Derry.

"It's a bit of damage limitation," he says of the terms of reference for a full- or corner-back in this Dublin team. "Fellas are aware of what it takes. But our game, in some ways, is defined by going man-to-man.

"There's other things too. When the pressure isn't on the man kicking the ball in, it has a knock-on effect for the guys inside. It's a steep learning curve."

Then again, if Dublin didn't suffer a collective panic attack with three goals conceded to Kerry in 20-odd minutes of last year's All-Ireland semi-final, there's a fair chance nothing this spring can fling at them will stick for too long.

"At no stage, even after the third goal went in ... ," Cooper recalls, " ... it was more a case of, look, it's a cliché and you don't want to hear it but it definitely was, 'what can I do for the next ball?'

"And I think it does give you a lot of confidence when you look up the pitch and see the eight, nine, 10 lads in front of you, able to break the line and get a score when you need to."

So by comparison, Dublin's current predicament is small change and no major harm. Cooper reckons, for a bit of early hardship. Just for perspective.

"It's probably good to happen, given what happened last year," he reasons. "There (are) a lot of experienced lads there to know that the panic button doesn't need to be pressed. But it's good to happen. I think it is anyway. You don't like losing. It's not what we're aiming for. But it mightn't do any harm in the long run," he concludes.


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