Jonny Cooper shrugs off Sergio Ramos comparison

The relative late-comer with the Dublin team is constantly trying to improve himself

Dublin footballer Jonny Cooper at the GAA Super Games Centre’s national blitz day in partnership with Sky Sports  at Abbotstown, Dublin. Photograph:  Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Dublin footballer Jonny Cooper at the GAA Super Games Centre’s national blitz day in partnership with Sky Sports at Abbotstown, Dublin. Photograph: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

 

It was meant as a compliment, a typically colourful Owen Mulligan soundbite, though Jonny Cooper isn’t sure whether to accept the pat on the back or be offended.

Discussing the Dublin defender’s role in the team in the wake of their latest All-Ireland win, Mulligan compared the Na Fianna man to Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos.

Mulligan referenced the “nasty b***ards” he played alongside in All-Ireland winning Tyrone teams during the 2000s, and claimed Cooper and Ramos were basically cut from the same cloth.

“I’m a massive fan of Jonny Cooper, the Sergio Ramos of Dublin,” said Mulligan. “He dives as if he’s been shot by a sniper, and he fouls cynically in all the right areas.”

Mulligan concluded that “you can’t teach this, you’re just born with it”, though Cooper does not see himself as a nasty player. The five-time All-Ireland winner acknowledges that he has been involved in a few scrapes over the years, but shrugs at the Ramos comparison.

“I think sometimes comments like that can pick up a big of traction, and then they can kind of snowball into ‘he is a particular type of player’,” said Cooper at the GAA Super Games Centres national blitz day in partnership with Sky Sports.

“I wouldn’t see myself as that player. Maybe incidents over the year, and years, have maybe contributed towards people having that opinion, but, look, when you play a game in a finite amount of space and time to make a potential decision, sometimes you get it wrong.

“I don’t intentionally go out to play in that way, in a nasty way, if that’s what people refer to me as. I don’t know, I like to be known as someone who tries and is honest in what they do, but if that somewhat oversteps the line, unintentionally from my point of view, then so be it.”

Late-comer

Mulligan’s caricature of Cooper of a fearless, old-school defender is only half the picture. Yes, he trades in steel from time to time, but he also does a mean business in silk.

The 28-year-old, a relative late-comer with this Dublin team – he won an All-Ireland junior medal in 2008 and didn’t make his senior Championship debut until 2013 – is constantly trying to improve himself.

A couple of weeks after Dublin’s All-Ireland final win over Tyrone, for example, he travelled over to Saracens rugby club to pick their brains for ideas. He also visited Leinster Rugby, and plans to chat with Ireland’s elite amateur boxers and anyone else he might be able to learn from.

He spent a couple of days at Saracens, and enjoyed several hours chatting with Owen Farrell, whose younger brother happens to play some Gaelic football in Dublin. Throughout his time there Cooper was struck by the club’s openness and willingness to share ideas, the opposite of what occurs at the top levels of Gaelic football.

“The environments are obviously different, and I was explaining that to them,” he said. “Their opinion was that their openness was because the more people that come in, or the more people that have an opinion on them or critique them, the more they can get different angles and perspectives. And I guess that’s really, really true. Why is GAA not like that? I don’t know. It’s quite guarded. It’s probably traditionally been quite guarded.”

Executive coaching

Cooper hopes to put all the information he has gathered to good use as a footballer but also away from the pitch. He has undertaken a masters degree in organisational behaviour at DCU, and fancies stepping into the area of executive coaching at some stage.

“The GPA [Gaelic Players Association] have a really good person, Fran [O’Reilly], who does a lot of work with people in terms of their off-field development,” said Cooper, by way of explaining where he sees things going for himself. “In recent times I would have used Fran a lot.

“He’s more about developing you as a person, not so much sporting as much as maybe academic or other things. He’s someone I found very useful, and somebody I would have maybe liked to follow into that particular area, maybe not exactly what he’s doing, but in terms of the health and the value that he actually added to me and people that I know. That type of experience I would hope to have myself in potentially a professional sense.”

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