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Dublin: 1 °C Wednesday 26 February, 2020
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Dublin defender Cooper set for return as he enjoys life under childhood hero Farrell

‘It is nice to get a different voice and different perspective,’ the six-time All-Ireland winner says.

Jonny Cooper pictured at the launch of Avonmre Protein Gold.
Jonny Cooper pictured at the launch of Avonmre Protein Gold.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

AFTER AN EXTENDED break, Dublin defender Jonny Cooper is back in the mix.

The six-time All-Ireland winner has been absent for Dessie Farrell’s Dubs in the league thus far, but Cooper confirmed today that he is available to make his seasonal return against Donegal on Saturday week.

Farrell is waiting on several five-in-a-row winning stars to return to the field, and after missing draws with Kerry and Monaghan, and a win over Mayo, 30-year-old Cooper is ready to go again.

“My hand is up at the moment,” he said today. “The other lads have three games and a number of other sessions under their belts so whether I’ll be at the level in terms of the minutes and the physical ability, that remains to be seen.

“But certainly pushing, and asking questions of others. I was always aware that I was coming back a bit later from holidays, that the lads would have a bit more done before me. But we’ll just see when it happens and when the body and mind is able for it.”

Things are different this year, of course, with Farrell filling the void left by long-serving Jim Gavin at the helm.

While most of the team were familiar with the new Sky Blues boss, Cooper knew him a little differently to others as a clubmate at Na Fianna.

“A lot of the lads have worked with him underage themselves,” he explains, “so they’d have a decent appreciation of his strengths and his own philosophies and so on.

“I knew him obviously a little bit more closely in terms of the club and watching him since I was a young kid. So I know him a bit differently to other people.

It is a clean slate for all of us in that respect, but it is good. A fresh set of eyes, a challenge and opportunity now and coming up. It is nice to get a different voice and different perspective and a different everything, I guess.

Farrell was someone Cooper certainly looked up to in his younger days: “I had three heroes if you like — Dessie, Jason Sherlock, and Senan Connell. They were the three and Geezer as well, but he was outside of Dublin.

“I was really lucky to go to a game on a Wednesday night to watch them when they were available. Yeah I would have watched them play, he had a fantastic spell underage with Dublin. He brought lots of current Dublin seniors under his old management systems.

“A really good guy, lots of experience with the GPA, very caring, compassionate, and empathetic towards the development people never mind football, just about people.”

“Obviously, as he should, he is bringing in new experiences and language and opinions around different things, how he would see the game, see us as individuals, and how he would see the team,” Cooper adds.

The bits I have been around for in the last couple of weeks, it certainly has been exciting maybe is the word. There is a pep in everyone’s step with a new manager, a new boss, somebody new to have to please, to get the respect of — to try to get a jersey.

“All that taken into account, where we are in the season, Dessie himself coming in with new players it has been great to see that maybe we could do something together this season.”

Farrell’s care, compassion and empathy towards the development of players as people, away from football — similar to Gavin — is something that Cooper admires. 

A DCU Masters student in organisational behaviour and psychology himself, it’s in Cooper’s personal interest too, and something he and Farrell discuss.

dessie-farrell Dublin manager Dessie Farrell. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“From his own professional background he would be acutely aware of the challenges Gaelic Footballers, hurlers, and everyone else goes through,” the Na Fianna star adds on the former GPA chief executive. “Training and applying personal and professional relationships and a few other things.

“Very much any of the conversations I’ve had… and I’m doing a Masters myself, so I can speak to it directly in terms of that space, I guess the care and empathy he has towards you developing as a person… that it would complement the sports in some way. That would be the idea.

He pushes you to think beyond what tomorrow looks like, what is next week, what is next year, what is three years? As a person and with the pressures and challenges of senior inter-county football, I certainly think that is something that is very welcome.

“To give us a sense of perspective – hurling, camogie, Gaelic football, ladies football is one element of that. Ultimately you have to get a job, or progress in a job.”

Aside from Cooper and Farrell, there’s plenty of Na Fianna representation in the set-up with rising star Aaron Byrne in flying the flag too.

Cooper is always eager to help youngsters coming onto the panel, and while he believes Byrne — who came on as a sub against Monaghan at the weekend — won’t get any special treatment with club man Farrell at the helm, the 2017 U21 Footballer of the Year will earn further opportunities to prove himself at senior level.

“He’s been knocking in and out,” Cooper nods. “He tried his best and he got a couple of chances under Jim but maybe not as much as he wanted.

Although Dessie would know him from the club, I don’t think it will bring extra opportunity for him, but I think he will get some opportunities as he has done to date.

“It’s about him applying himself — he’s been around long enough, he’s been around the likes of Eoin Murchan who would have been very disciplined and dedicated to their craft to know what it takes, and certainly he’s got a lot of setbacks, so it’s about using them to help himself become successful and then add value to the team.”

Dublin defender Jonny Cooper has teamed up with Avonmore Protein Milk to launch their new premium protein milk, Avonmore Protein Gold.

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Emma Duffy

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