Dublin’s Johnny Cooper expecting a huge test against the Kingdom
‘You always want to challenge yourself against the best there is,’ says Dublin corner-back
Johnny Cooper in action for Dublin. “Kerry will bring their ‘A’ game.” Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Johnny Cooper is supposed to be still waiting his turn. Philly McMahon, Michael Fitzsimons and Cian O’Sullivan joined Rory O’Carroll in Dublin’s full back line during the march to the 2011 All-Ireland.
None of them have gone anywhere. The 2010 under-21 All-Ireland-winning captain, under Jim Gavin, bedded in under the new regime this winter at corner back.
McMahon and Fitzsimons never did get their places back. Other man-markers who have come through Gavin’s underage years, Darren Daly and Kevin O’Brien, have contested the number two jersey.
Number four belongs to Cooper with O’Sullivan shifted into midfield. But Cooper, formerly a wing back, abides. Maybe he is too light, maybe he hasn’t been tested. Maybe he is simply too good to leave off.
At Dublin’s premature press gathering last week, he went through a brisk questions and answers session. It gets around to Kerry. Not that he’s paying them much mind.
“I haven’t really seen them that much. We’ve been concentrating on ourselves to an extent but we do have to have a look at them. The guys have been filtering information into us. There’s so many All -Irelands between them, we can hardly muster together a couple between ourselves.
“They have a lot of experience. I wouldn’t be reading too much into the Cavan game. . . We concentrate on what we’re doing and don’t look elsewhere.”
Kerry, as a footballing entity then, what does it mean to him?
“They’re always at the top table. To me, and I’m only new to the team, they’re synonymous down through the years. The Ó Sés, (Maurice) Fitzgerald, Gooch, they’re always at the top table wining All-Irelands, All Stars or being role models in general. They’re the team to beat.
“You always want to challenge yourself against the best there is. Certainly, whatever form Kerry have showed, they’re always going to be there come the crunch.”
The 2009 defeat was a harrowing experience for Dublin, prompting manager Pat Gilroy to utter the eternal phrase for footballers unprepared for the intensity of this level. The “startled earwigs” are nowhere to be found since.
Dublin were supposed to rise that afternoon – as they are again on Sunday.
“We don’t worry about it. Kerry will bring their ‘A’ game. They’ll look at a Dublin game and raise their game a couple of per cent as a lot of teams do. I wouldn’t be looking too much into that at all.”
He’s saying they are ready for whatever comes – like fending off Cork’s avalanche.
“They rained a lot of high ball in on us. That’s what teams are going to try to do. We got a couple in the previous game against Meath and we anticipated that other teams might try it out. The Cork game we were expecting it but we were expecting low ball and into-the-chest ball. We focus on all aspects.
“I thought we broke even with the guys. They didn’t score a goal. They got one of two chances but what team isn’t going to get one or two goal chances?”
Cooper agrees that being alongside a full back like O’Carroll demands certain standards of a corner back.
“We’re actually the same age but Rory was three years or so on the panel, more probably as a starter than I am. So he has so much experience and in fairness to Rory you can bounce stuff off him . . he’s very open to learning but also sharing his experience. He’s been there on the biggest day of them all. “Rory doesn’t like to be in the limelight; he gets about his business and let’s his talking be done on the pitch and leave it like that.” And that, in a nutshell, is the Dublin way nowadays.