Sunday 18 March 2018

Cooper reveals he played just four club games in 2016

Dublin defender Jonny Cooper in Croke Park at yesterday’s 2017 Allianz FL – the champions will begin their league defence away to Cavan on February 5. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Dublin defender Jonny Cooper in Croke Park at yesterday’s 2017 Allianz FL – the champions will begin their league defence away to Cavan on February 5. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

All-Star full-back Jonny Cooper has revealed that he played just four games of football with his club Na Fianna in 2016 as Dublin's inter-county success absorbed so much of his time.

The Glasnevin club lost a second-round match to St Vincent's the week after Dublin's All-Ireland final replay win over Mayo. In all they had two championship and 15 league games in the year.

In terms of time he figures he spent no more than six weeks with his club, where his two brothers play, and that's something he would dearly love to change.

But with Dublin putting their county championship into cold storage until their senior football team's interest in the All-Ireland is at an end, it was hard to forge a stronger association.

"I really wanted to put my shoulder to the wheel for the club but I was only able to give five weeks, maybe six weeks to the club last year," he said.

"In terms of actual effort and work and being with the lads, the rest was all remote, dialling in as such.

"So six weeks over the entire year is not something my club deserve and probably not something that I want.

"I want to give more to the club, albeit I want to do it with Dublin too, and probably that work around fixtures and scheduling would help me and many more players."

He feels it's a "tough call" as to whether players have a responsibility to say no to their county managers at times.

"If I was to say to Jim (Gavin) something like that, he would probably respect me wanting to go back to the club. At the same time, he does give us windows to go back to the club.

"I would like more but I think we are all in the same boat. It would be a big call, because if you decided to jump out now, go back to the club for a week or two, and the rest of the lads are training together, you are ultimately out of sight and out of mind. So it is probably a bit of a Catch 22."

Cooper is supportive of moves to condense the season much better, saying: "That's what the players want, as many games as possible. And if that's in a short window, that's even better."

He will miss Dublin's first League match against Cavan in Kingspan Breffni Park through suspension after his All-Ireland replay black card brought to three the number of black card/double yellows he picked up.

Cooper admits that Dublin have taken a gamble for the forthcoming League by excluding their entire existing senior squad from pre-season matches. In their absence, a third string Dublin team have advanced to the O'Byrne Cup final.


"It's a bit of a risk but at the same time, we had a long 2016, so Jim wanted to give us all the necessary break and as a result, we came back a little bit later."

The black card which he picked up in the first half of the second Mayo match to rule him out of the League start did, he admitted, take some of the shine from the win on a personal level.

"I have my own standards for performance and those sort of things, and coming off after a very short amount of minutes, wouldn't be one of them. But it gives me drive to clean up," he said.

"I wasn't in a great mindset (at the time). They had just scored a goal and I think it was the next play or within the next 30 seconds."

He remains adamant that he "genuinely" didn't mean to pull down Donie Vaughan, saying: "I don't know what I was thinking really. It was sort of instinctive. I just reached out. I didn't really mean to pull his leg or trip him up. It was just a natural reaction to the play that I was in."

Cooper remains supportive of the black cards motives though he feels, in some cases, that yellow fits the crime better.

"It just makes you be as clean and right on the edge as you can, without going over," he said. "You can look at it two ways. I look at it that it's forcing me to be a better defender.

"If someone's bearing down on goal and you pull or trip them, then it should be a more punishable offence than a yellow card.

"It's all circumstantial. What's stage of the game is it? Is the team up or down? What part of the pitch it's on? It's probably scenario-based. It just depends. In my opinion yellow is sometimes better than a black."

His form earned him his first All-Star and the doubts that racked him in the early part of his career, when Pat Gilroy was manager, have receded.

"I didn't really believe it in my core that I was good enough and I think that probably shone through in my actual performances, be it in club games or be it in the couple of internal games Pat would have brought me in for to make up the numbers," he said.

"I didn't really shine through as good as I probably could have in the end. My performance didn't match my internal drive or ambition to actually be there. It probably took me an extra bit of time. That bit of belief is something I've only got in the last few years."

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