Cooper: It’s dog eat dog for places in Dublin starting 15
“Who are you telling?” sighs Jonny Cooper when it’s put to him that being injured on the Dublin senior panel is a perilous business.
Last Sunday, Cooper was an 11th hour withdrawal from the team to face Meath in the Leinster final due to a quad injury. Mick Fitzsimons skated in and helped quell the influence of Stephen Bray, the man who had done so much to unsettle Dublin in the 2013 encounter.
Cooper had played every minute of Dublin’s two championship games before last weekend, but now admits he’s playing catch-up to return to the team for their All-Ireland quarter-final clash. In the ultra-competitive world that is the Dublin squad, the margins are that fine.
“That’s the way it works and the reality is that he (Fitzsimons) has the jersey now and deservedly so and it’s up to me and the other full-back line contenders to try and get one.
“It’s dog eat dog in there and although we are all feeding into the one channel of a collective Dublin performance, we are all trying to get a starting 15 jersey.
“The hunger is massive because the competition is massive. The next guy could step up just as well, or maybe better, than you can in some cases.”
The Na Fianna man expects to return to full training by this weekend and it’ll be to no one’s surprise if he’s restored to the team. He’s been a trusted lieutenant of Jim Gavin’s since captaining the county U-21s to All-Ireland success in 2010 and the manager gave him every chance to prove his fitness last weekend.
Instead he was confined to the stand as Dublin completed their latest Leinster rout. This time, a Meath side who expected to provide the sternest resistance of the season so far, were all but out of contention at half-time, as the Dubs added to their ever impressive resumé.
Dublin held a nine-point advantage at the break and at one stage in the second half led by 20 points when Dean Rock hit the post with a goal attempt.
It led to a ninth Leinster title in 10 years, which represents an unprecedented grip on the eastern province. And perhaps ominously for the rest of the country, Cooper thinks Dublin can deliver a more complete performance than last weekend.
“It’s not enjoyable to watch sometimes from outside when you are not able to play a part, but it’s all about the collective and once they are winning it doesn’t really matter.
“It’s a different perspective when you are not involved, so you see things in a bit more controlled and calm way. They were very impressive, but again it was only in patches. That’s something we’ll be working on – to be consistent for the whole 70 minutes. It was probably an improvement on the last two games, but again we need to step on.”
Dublin’s defence was once thought of as their weak spot, but having been tested by the Royals, delivered a superb rear guard action last weekend to underscore the progress they have made in that area.
The All-Ireland champions did some excellent work in the tackle, frustrating a Meath attack that had looked particularly potent in the earlier rounds.
The latest biting allegation to hit the Dublin squad was the only shadow on a memorable day. Meath have since dropped the issues and Eoghan O’Gara will have no case to answer.
Cooper wasn’t aware of the claim until well after the game, but is glad it has been put to bed.
“We can only control what we do and whatever happens outside is something the county board and the management control. It’s blown over and it’s gone.
“Dublin and Meath always has that rivalry and edge, and incidents happen in games and sometimes they are merited and sometimes they are blown out of proportion and that’s what it was.”
(Photo Credit: Sportsfile)