Saturday 17 November 2018

Cooper hungry to learn and brush shoulders with the pros

Jonny Cooper is learning from the pros. Photo: Sportsfile
Jonny Cooper is learning from the pros. Photo: Sportsfile

Michael Verney

If Jonny Cooper's attitude to personal improvement is anything to go by, those trying to thwart Dublin's drive for five next year are in for yet another rude awakening.

Complacency or a lack of hunger is often cited as the reason why a great team eventually fall but Cooper is taking no chances and preparations are already under way for 2019.

The paint is barely dry on their four-in-a-row success but the 28-year-old has already visited rugby sides Saracens and Leinster to learn from professional outfits with a view to improving on and off the pitch.

Rather than go to the gym or run, the Na Fianna defender tries to expand his mind in the off-season and, having just started a DCU Masters in organisational behaviour, personal development is top of his list.

In-depth conversations with English rugby internationals like Owen Farrell and the Vunipola brothers (Billy and Mako) left him with plenty of food for thought to modify his approach for the year ahead.

"They (Saracens) have a big focus, for example, towards enjoyment. And they just plug in loads of things," Cooper said at the 2018 GAA Super Games Centres National Blitz Day in partnership with Sky Sports.

"They have a lot more time but they plug in segments of enjoyment. It could be five-a-side soccer or it could be volleyball. Or within meetings, they just have the craic for a few minutes before they kick into the serious things.

"I guess they have a lot more time so maybe they have to break up the serious stuff with that. So something like that. Getting that balance between the serious stuff and the enjoyment. It's simple but they do it a lot over there.

"They do all the same stuff. They do the prehab, the rehab, the gym sessions - it's actually a lot of the same. If I thought about it probably, it shouldn't have surprised me.

"But when I saw it in front of my eyes, it was a validation in some ways to know you're not too far away from these world-class athletes in terms of what they do and what you do."

Cooper had another stellar season in Sky Blue and is expected to pick up his second All-Star but his teak-tough defensive style has drawn much comment, some positive and some negative, with former Tyrone star Owen Mulligan likening Cooper to Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos.

Mulligan insists that successful teams are full of "nasty b******s" but the Dublin defender certainly doesn't view his playing style in that way.

"Sometimes comments like that can pick up a bit of traction and then they can kind of snowball into, 'he is a particular type of player'. I wouldn't see myself as that player," he said.

"Maybe incidents, over the year, and years, have maybe contributed towards people maybe having that opinion but when you play in a finite amount of space and time to make a potential decision, and sometimes you get it wrong.

"I don't intentionally go to play in that way, in a nasty way. If that's what people refer to me.

"But, I don't know, I like to be known as someone who tries and is honest in what they do but if that somewhat oversteps the line, unintentionally from my point of view, then so be it."

Irish Independent

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