Dublin’s Jonny Cooper has no issue accepting his share of the guillotine for poor year

‘It does come back, deservedly so, to people that are leading the line’

Jonny Cooper looks almost amused at the thought. His club Na Fianna is in this weekend's county hurling final for the first time. He's been helping out with the team's preparations, he tells us.

“Glorified water boy is probably what Rushie [Liam Rushe] would tell you. It’s great – first [hurling] final ever for the club; some buzz around the place. But involved in the background, to answer your question, supporting them in their performance environment.

“As a whole, they have a really strong coaching set-up and manager in Niall Ó Ceallacháin and a really strong player group so I’m trying to assist or leverage any exposure or experience that I would have from over the last couple of years, to do a small bit to bring to the system.”

The area of performance coaching is his vocational speciality – he is ‘People and Change’ manager at consultants KPMG – but he actually first came to public sporting attention as a hurler in the mid-2000s.

Cooper started in the full-forward line for the Dublin Schools team that won the 2006 All-Ireland. “Then Jonny Cooper grabbed a bullet from the sky and dissected the posts, ensuring the Ennis college needed a goal to survive,” The Irish Times reported from the win over St Flannan’s.

A year later he was wing forward when the Dublin minors beat Kilkenny to win the Leinster minor title. Soon though, football had his undivided attention and he surfaced – again as wing forward – when the county won an unusual All-Ireland junior title in 2008 – in the company of others, who would become familiar at a higher level.

In 2010 Jim Gavin and Declan Darcy made him captain of Dublin's All-Ireland winning under-21s. Apart from a difficult period trying to transition to senior, which ended when the under-21 management took over the seniors, the rest is part of the most glorious decade in the county's history.

A year ago, he won a seventh All-Ireland under the new management of his old mentor and club-mate Dessie Farrell.

This year has been different. Poor-quality performances characterised Dublin’s championship from the start and led to the inevitable end of days in the All-Ireland semi-final against Mayo. It wasn’t a great year for Cooper to take over the captaincy and he acknowledges as much.

“I think it’s nice to have and it’s something that’s there. For club, family, et cetera it’s important but at the same time, the guillotine falls on my and/or Dessie’s head.

“From that point of view, it’s a big learning and a big opportunity for me to reflect on practices, conversations, leadership styles, qualities to maybe do a bit better in the future – and that’s not to say I didn’t perhaps try or do my best but at the same time it does come around when you get the loss – it does come back, deservedly so, to people that are leading the line.

“You get what you deserve. Maybe that’s a crude way of looking at it or a harsh way of looking at it but at the same time, in those clutch moments you start leaking and can’t produce what we have in the past, you have to reflect on practices.”

As a veteran of the team, he is familiar – however distantly – with the fall-out from defeat in 2014 but he has younger team-mates who had never lost a championship match until last August. Will they find it difficult to process?

“Yeah, I think so. That’s probably accurate enough to the point of it’s going to be different – not that they won’t respond to it in a positive manner. At the same time it’s a new situation for them. You’d like to think that there’s been enough lessons and learnings for them over the years, albeit in a more positive respect . . . that they’ll be able to equally apply to this current situation.”

– Jonny Cooper took part in a press call to publicise Dublin sponsors AIG's interactive question-and-answer session between three members of the All Blacks team, who play Ireland on Saturday, Anton Lienert-Brown, Will Jordan and Ardie Savea, and three Dublin Gaelic athletes, Cooper, Sinéad Aherne and Orla Gray.