Cooper in duel for Dubs jersey
UP TO 2.0 last Sunday afternoon, most Dublin diehards would agree that Jonny Cooper has been their standout defender of 2014.
But now, having watched the Leinster final from the Hogan Stand because of a quad injury, the Na Fianna flyer has embraced the reality of his altered status - Mick Fitzsimons has the jersey and Cooper is the one battling to try and force his way back into Jim Gavin's starting plans.
First, he must prove his fitness for the All-Ireland quarter-final against opponents still-unknown on Saturday, August 9 - and to that end he is hoping to resume training this weekend. But then the hard work is only starting.
Cooper was in the Mansion House yesterday for the GAA's launch of the All-Ireland SFC series, where he acknowledged the danger of an ill-timed injury for any Dublin player, given the internal competition for places.
"Yeah, who are you telling?" Cooper admitted, reflecting on how Fitzsimons came in as an 11th hour replacement last Sunday and duly completed a brilliant marking job on Meath's Stephen Bray, earning an RTÉ Man of the Match nomination in the process.
"The reality is he 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."
Asked if this meant that, right now, he couldn't be classed as a starter, Cooper replied: "Absolutely. Everything is picked on merit. If Jim sees people are pushing and deserve a spot ... you'll get your chance and it's up to the person in question to prove it to him."
Cooper was named to start the Leinster final only to be withdrawn before throw-in. According to the player, his soft-tissue quad muscle injury is at the "lesser end" of the severity scale.
"Maybe Saturday or Sunday I'll be able to do some on-pitch stuff with a pair of boots on - and try and kick on from this weekend," he disclosed. "Try and prove myself over the next two weeks and try and get a jersey, if possible."
He was looking on, none the wiser, when a mass melee erupted late in Sunday's one-sided decider, prompting Meath allegations that Mickey Burke had been bitten on the finger. He only learned of the claims much later that evening and is satisfied that GAA chiefs have done the right thing now by declaring the case closed.
"It's blown over now and it's gone and we are looking at the next game with a lot of hunger," Cooper declared.
"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."
Pronouncing himself "surprised" at how the story came out and "the way it materialised in the press", he added: "Now, all of a sudden it is gone, so I think it has gone in the right direction and the way it should have gone."