Jonny Cooper refuses to be distracted by talk of five-in-a-row
The Na Fianna man says he does not know if Diarmuid Connolly will be part of the Dublin panel
Dublin’s Jonny Cooper: “I just think that ability to focus on the immediate and the task in hand... it’s something that is profitable if you’re able to do it.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Cian O’Sullivan admitted his ploy for diverting work conversations away from Dublin’s shot at glory this summer is Brexit. Always a conversation killer.
You would also be wasting your time attempting to lure Jonny Cooper, a colleague of O’Sullivan’s in the Dublin defence, into a five-in-a-row discussion.
Asked how much five-in-a-row motivates him as the Na Fianna man and the Dublin panel prepare for Saturday week’s Leinster championship opener against Louth, Cooper responded emphatically with a single word. ‘Zero’.
Not even a little bit then?
“I just have no interest in it, to be honest with you,” said the five-time All-Ireland winner.
If Dublin do manage to pull it off Cooper will probably party as hard as any of his team-mates next September, but for now he has barred himself from peeking into the future.
He goes back to 2014 and Dublin’s All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Donegal, their last in the Championship, to offer an example of what happens to players and teams that allow outcome to take precedence over process.
“Look, we deservedly got caught,” he said of their defeat to Jim McGuinness’s Ulster champions. “We got caught and deservedly so because we as players didn’t ask ourselves enough questions as to what could happen that day, what may happen, and the result went deservedly that way.
“I just think that ability to focus on the immediate and the task in hand, as opposed to anything else, any other side conversations, it’s obviously a tricky balance and a thing to manage, but it’s something that is profitable if you’re able to do it.
“I guess that was my learning from that time, just to focus as best I can on me and what’s in front of me, as opposed to something that I can’t control.”
Dublin may be all about processes and protocols right now then, yet one issue continues to rumble on without any sign of an outcome; the Diarmuid Connolly saga.
Eight days out from facing Louth in Portlaoise in the quarter-finals of the Leinster Championship, we are still unsure if the 31-year-old St Vincent’s man will be part of the panel.
No news would appear to be bad news for Dublin supporters, though the door appears to remain ajar for the forward to step back in, a la Rory O’Carroll.
“I’ve no sense he’s coming back [but] I had no sense Rory was coming back, I had no sense of Paul [Flynn] going, I had no sense of anything like that,” said Cooper.
“I don’t really know. It’s just personal opinion and of course I’d like to see him back. I don’t know what the official endgame will be, and it remains to be seen, I guess.”
Fellow Dublin defender James McCarthy refused to discuss the Connolly situation at all earlier this week, referring all queries to Gavin. Cooper at least said he would welcome the playmaker’s presence in the squad.
“Of course, yeah, we’re former team-mates. He’s a guy who we know, a lot of us have soldiered with him, and played with him.
“Yeah, he’s immensely talented, and he’d be welcomed in the group, if that is going to be the case. But other than that I’ve no other insider information that I can share.”
From the outside it all looks like a bit of a slog, dodging five-in-a-row and Connolly talk and coping with the weight of the capital county’s vast expectations. It brings to mind an admission by Rory McIlroy in a 2016 interview that he doesn’t play golf for fun anymore, and that it’s something closer to a job for him now.
Asked if football is still fun for him in what appears a high pressure environment, Cooper shrugged.
“It’s definitely a high challenge environment, and high support I guess as well. I don’t know if there is more pressure to be quite honest. Obviously from the media point of view, or a supporter’s point of view, there seems pressure there, but I guess it’s kind of like a nice challenge, a nice stimulant to put upon you.
“Maybe it’s not even pressure, maybe it’s just a greater challenge that you have to rise to. Whether we can do that or not, it’s obviously up for grabs. But it seems like a nice environment in my opinion.”
Remaining injury-free is another giant challenge, this year of all years. Cooper started the first six of Dublin’s league games but picked up a slight ankle injury. It cost him a club championship game, but he was back for Na Fianna’s second match and reported that he is fully fit now for the Louth game.
“The second [club] game, we lost that one but I was able to compete, had an opportunity to play so I’m fine,” he said.