'He's on his own programme' - Jonny Cooper backs 'focused' Diarmuid Connolly to return to Dublin XV when ban elapses
The mindset of Diarmuid Connolly has gradually become an issue of national fascination.
Ever since he decided against appealing the 12-week ban that has spawned such an eruption of comment and reaction, Connolly’s ability or otherwise to re-emerge from the shadows for an expected All-Ireland semi-final has become Dublin football’s most aired topic.
“I don’t know whether I’m interpreting it wrong or he could be feeling something else,” says Jonny Cooper, “but it looks to me like he’s very focused on maybe trying to get back into the team if we are to progress.”
Despite expectations to the contrary, the public furore over the suspension and the drama of the past couple of weeks don’t seem to have adversely affected Connolly.
“He’s been very good,” says Cooper, “he’s been very open about the whole thing and put his hands up himself and said he shouldn’t have done it.
“Obviously we are at a stage now where it’s happened and I think he’s just trying to accept that’s the reality and maybe give a shoulder and give a lean towards other people now that maybe have the opportunity to actually play on the day in terms of his own experience and everything else.
“So yeah, focus would be a good word.”
The way Cooper sees it, Connolly hasn’t spent much time feeling sorry for himself either.
Jim Gavin confirmed in his fraught post Westmeath press conference last week that it was him rather than Connolly who sought a hearing.
Cooper revealed yesterday that the Dublin vice-captain had openly accepted responsibility for his actions.
“I think he’s his own man, he’s a grown man now,” the 2016 All Star defender points out.
“Obviously it doesn’t fit in under what’s expected of us from a performance or management, what they’re looking for.
“I’m sure he’s very aware now – he certainly is now that he’s suspended – of the ramifications of not staying in check with his actions.”
“Diarmuid is around,” Cooper confirms.
“But not around for everything and I think he’s on his own programme as well. He’s involved in the training aspects; as in the on-field things.
“He wasn’t around for the weekend that we were training for example.
“But then he’s on his own training programme, with gym-based stuff and obviously keeping up his own conditioning.
“He’s obviously not going to get any game-time, it’s just trying to stay at that level.”
Cooper’s own participation this season has been hugely curtailed.
Suspended for Dublin’s League opener against Cavan in Breffni Park, he played against Tyrone and then suffered an ankle injury.
Despite a decent diagnosis, Cooper didn’t appear in a Dublin jersey again until their Leinster SFC opener against Carlow in Portlaoise.
He confirms now that the initial prognosis was for “a couple of weeks,” out of action.
“I was with the doctors and whatever and a couple of weeks was the line. But it ended up being… I don’t know what it ended up being, 10 or so weeks? That’s the way it panned out. It probably dragged on a little bit more than I thought.
“I was trying to do the rehab and things but it just didn’t materialise and there was guys there that were fit and able to play.”
In that context, Cooper admits to being “probably a little bit surprised” to be selected against Carlow on the evening of Connolly’s misdemeanour.
“The lads, I thought, were going well in various positions and you can chop and change and you can maybe move a few guys anyway but, yeah, relieved.
“But I had done a good bit of work in fairness.
“I wasn’t sitting idle,” Cooper adds.
“I was doing a good bit of work to try and prove myself.
“And thankfully, it’s worked out.”
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