Sunday 21 January 2018

Cooper relishing role with Gavin's new Dubs

Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

NA FIANNA's list of Dublin All-Ireland senior football winners is a small and exclusive fraternity.

Bill Casey, in 1963, was the first member to play in a Sam Maguire-winning side, followed by John McCarthy, who won three in 1974, '76 and '77.

And in 1983 it was John Caffrey on the winners' podium when Kevin Heffernan's team overcame Galway in a fractious decider, which ended with 12 Dubs and 14 Tribesmen left on the pitch.

In 1995, the Glasnevin-based club had a double reason to celebrate the county's next All-Ireland victory when Dessie Farrell and Jason Sherlock featured on the side managed by Pat O'Neill.

As an 'outsider,' Kieran McGeeney was a member of Na Fianna when he and his native Armagh annexed the 2002 All-Ireland, but two years ago Pat Gilroy's squad brought Sam back to the capital without any representation from the Dublin club.

Now the Dubs have entered a new chapter in their history under Jim Gavin's management.


The ambition within the camp is for a happy ending, if not in Croke Park this year, then some time in the very near future.

If that happens, rising talents, such as Na Fianna's Jonny Cooper and Tomas Brady, who line out for Dublin against Mayo at Croke Park tonight, will hope to be part of the narrative.

For Cooper, a 23-year-old DCU student who captained Gavin's Dublin U-21 team to glory in 2010, it's a case of 'so far, so good' as he has played in Dublin's victories over Louth and Kerry and is set to start against Mayo.

Strong and versatile, he made his senior debut last year in the league against Armagh, but he played only 12 minutes in the championship as a sub in the clash with Louth.

He was honest enough to admit that his confidence dipped once the squad moved into championship mode as the big names came on board for the business end of the summer.

"I played a couple of league games. I was doing well and the confidence was probably up. Then, all of a sudden, the league was over and there was a five or six-week gap and I probably just lost my confidence.

"When I did regain it, the team was already set. Or the 22 or 23 was already set. So, I would say that this year, for me anyway, confidence is probably the thing that is a big help for me at the minute," said Cooper.

This year represents a fresh start. Cooper is among a group of around a dozen graduates from the U-21 ranks that have worked with Gavin before, and that is a bonus.

"I suppose I'd be that bit more comfortable with Jim, and that's probably the same with the 10 or 12 lads who played underage for him. It's very much, if you're performing, you're going to get the jersey. That's the long and the short of it really. There isn't too much complication or too many mixed messages," said Cooper.

Another message that meets with Cooper's approval from Gavin is the manager's stated desire for players to 'express themselves' within the system.

"It's very much to suit the talents the players have," Cooper said. "If somebody is strong going forward, why not go forward? If somebody is strong at defending, why not leave them back?

"That is definitely one of the positive aspects, to give lads that bit more freedom to express themselves that bit more, and hopefully that's what's seen on match days."

Irish Independent

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