Jonny Cooper says manipulating rules is ‘a dangerous game’

Defender says he will need to play under the new rules “to make a full judgement call’

Jonny Cooper: “I think it’s a dangerous game to try and manipulate rules to make the viewing of the game better.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Jonny Cooper: “I think it’s a dangerous game to try and manipulate rules to make the viewing of the game better.” Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

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In one ear they’re saying Jonny Cooper is part of the greatest ever Dublin football team.

In the other ear they’re saying Jonny Cooper is a robot and success is all down to money.

No wonder he likes to keep his head somewhere in between. In fact he’s heard it all before, the five-time All-Ireland winning defender happy to let people have their opinions, and careful not to be fooled by any of them.

The latest reminder came with Dublin chief executive John Costello’s report to the county convention later in the month, where he gently mocks the criticism of the players and management for being like robots (“glad to report that no microchips, levers, wires, transistors, relays etc. were discovered”), while also dismissing the suggestion games development grants contributing to the senior success (“at best is mischievous”). 

Cooper smiles at that first criticism.

“Yeah we do get a lot of that ‘robots’, that we’re very strict and don’t have personalities, all that sort of stuff,” he says.

“I guess people take it at face value, they see us over 60 or 70 minute periods in a game, that’s a certain portion of our behaviour and see that as the rest of the picture for us, which isn’t the case. 

“Then the other things, around money, like everyone else in the country we still have to get up and do our gym session at whatever time, 6.30, 7.0 am, use the same equipment, so from that point of view I can’t see the argument that it’s the more money in totality going to Dublin which equals success. 

“Then I see it from the players’ side, we still eat the same stuff, put in the same level of preparation as everyone else, and we don’t get any extra money to do that. I think people are entitled to their opinion.

“Everyone has a different perspective, and if you’re inside the bubble as such you have a completely different perspective, than say journalists, or family or fans or anyone else. I think John [Costello] is trying to furnish some of the facts as well as the comments, to give a bit of context.” 

Costello also makes the point that when Dublin footballers “were less successful” they were “ridiculed for being too showy”. He admits there’s an instilled modesty within the current team, but that wasn’t necessarily forced on them. 

“I think subtly with this management group, but also with Pat Gilroy, that group as well. Not that the guys before weren’t hard-working or anything like that, but I guess there was a bit more of the flashiness, or whatever came with it. And I’m sure that was fine at that particular time, and there were reasons for doing different things. 

Getting plaudits

“So it’s just been subtly in the background, year after year, just getting more, I don’t know what you’d call it, just down to earth, going about your business, no airs or graces. Maybe that’s just more internal, more passion and control inside people, to be aware it’s not really a showy thing.” 

When praise of Dublin runs to the extremely positive Cooper also takes heed, knowing that road only leads to complacency: “You hear it all yeah, right up to you’re the best thing since sliced bread. From my perspective anyway it’s somewhere in the middle.

“That potential complacency which comes with getting plaudits or records is very dangerous, as is engaging or trying to have converssation with people who think finance is the main driver to the success, It’s having that awareness from a player point of view, and knowing how to deal with people, also being realistic to survive, that you’re not that good, or that bad. 

“I think earlier in my career I would have got more consumed, whether it was around something like me not playing well, or I should be playing. But as the years have progressed I’ve learned that neither are accurate, and it’s about staying true to yourself, and the people and colleagues and management who ultimately give you the best steer in that bubble.” 

On the experimental football rule changes to be trialled in the upcoming league, Costello feared “the new rules will be detrimental to the game” and “strengthen the hand of those who worship at the altar of the more defensive/negative game”. 

Cooper says he will need to play under the new rules “to make a full judgement call”, but is not in favour of a 10-minute sin bin for a black card offence, even though he was black-carded just 20 minutes into the 2016 All-Ireland final replay win over Mayo. 

“I think it’s a dangerous game to try and manipulate rules to make the viewing of the game better. It’s quite challenging in itself, never mind for the players and other people. To be honest, I think the black card, when it’s done right and correct, I think implementing the rule, as best as the referees can implement the rule as it was, would be a fine solution other than trying to put something else on top of it.” 

Jonny Cooper was speaking at the launch AIG’s “try before you buy” SmartLane driving app, which gives good drivers up to 20% off their car insurance.

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