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Pizza, pints and spinning classes: What does Jonny Cooper's off-season look like?

Cooper and the Dublin squad are enjoying their downtime but it won’t be long before January rolls around.

Updated at 15.05

IN THE EARLY naughties, the emergence of Armagh and Tyrone started a trend of inter-county players hitting the weights to bulk-up and add size to their frames.

Kieran McGeeney and Aidan O'Rourke Source: INPHO

As the GAA shifts more towards speed and agility over size, players are changing their bodies to keep pace. It means that county footballers and hurlers are prioritising lean muscle and power over bulk and size.

In order to keep their slimmed-down physiques during the season, they must closely watch their food intake, but the off-season offers the chance to overindulge. Eating right falls by the wayside for a while.

For the third year in-a-row, Dublin footballer Jonny Cooper is coming off the back of an All-Ireland-winning season. The winter after a Sam Maguire success typically involves celebration dinners, medal presentations, All-Stars functions, a team holiday and a few nights out in between.

“The first couple of weeks after the All-Ireland is just whatever’s coming up – be it a social event or a night out or family,” says Cooper.

“You just kind of eat whatever you want. That’s probably the first five or six weeks for me.

Jonny Cooper Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“I love a pizza. And in fairness, when I’m not involved, I don’t mind doing it – I’ve no conscience about it. But when I am involved it wouldn’t even come into my thoughts.”

Eventually as November comes around, Cooper says “you’re starting to get sick of that stuff.” And he even notices a lag in his energy levels at work.

“You love that type of food or whatever for a couple of weeks. And then you don’t feel like you have as much energy, or you’re going to bed later and you’re getting up a little bit lethargic on your working day, so it all kinds of spin into one. It’s a total different world.

“Energy goes down and, as a result, concentration and work on different things. Definitely. I’ve spoken to colleagues at work about it about this exact point. What they want most of the time, because they’re not in the sporting environment, and I’d be saying that exact point.

“But you do miss it after a couple of weeks. The lads were saying at the medal (presentation) recently, after a couple of weeks you miss the camaraderie and being together and all that.

“Just the way it pans out, you don’t see a lot of them.”

Bord na Móna Leinster GAA Series Launch Jonny Cooper of Dublin was at the launch of the Bord na Móna Leinster GAA series at Bord na Móna O'Connor Park Source: Matt Browne/SPORTSFILE

At this time of the year, Cooper’s thoughts have shifted to January and the heavy pre-season training that’s on the horizon. He does enough to keep his body ticking over so he’s not playing catch-up when the New Year rolls around.

“Even this time of the year, I’m sure the guys do (have the odd blow-outs), they’re no different to me, but I’m sure they do keep one eye on what’s coming down the track.b Christmas is going to be busy anyway for everyone, but straight away in January you’re going to be hitting it hard.

“So a week (now) has probably (involved) a couple of spinning classes, things like that, just trying to get something back into the legs.

“Well, that’s what I do. I don’t if all the lads (do) but I’d say lads would be doing something, whether it’s just a gym session or spinning. I doubt if it’s something on the pitch but maybe some lads like to keep up some pitch work but I wouldn’t say so. But probably two or three times a week at this stage.”

There are no drinking bans discussed in the Dublin camp during the season according to the 2016 All-Star defender, but the players understand how alcohol affects the their performance levels.

“I don’t think it’s been a formal conversation in a team setting,” he says. “I think the way it works is no different to playing – if you’re out doing that, you probably have less of an opportunity in terms of maximising something on a training pitch for Jim to see.

Jonny Cooper celebrates with The Sam Maguire Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“I think now everything is so driven, even those small margins, and drink obviously affects you, potentially for a couple of days, and makes you feel not too good after in most cases.

“I personally went from our holiday right through ’til September, I think it was one night or evening I had a few. But I know lads were off it completely. Just because if you’re out ’til three or four, two or three, and you’re trying to get up, it just doesn’t catch up.

“It’s probably so competitive now that no one’s willing to give too much room for somebody else to nudge them out of the way for any reason. That’s probably one of the reasons.

“Lads do it differently; I’m sure lads have pints after games, or I see the rugby guys do it all the time and it doesn’t seem to affect them too much. So maybe it’s just the culture that we’re in at the moment, whether it’s right or wrong I don’t know.

“I don’t mind. I went a good number of months (this year) without it. And without too much hassle.”

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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Kevin O'Brien

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