Thursday 27 October 2016

'Rory's shoes will be hard to fill'

Cooper says O'Carroll's absence will force someone else to emerge from the pack

Jonny Cooper at Parnell Park yesterday to help announce a 47% discount on home-insurance offer to new AIG customers.
Jonny Cooper at Parnell Park yesterday to help announce a 47% discount on home-insurance offer to new AIG customers.

Given Jonny Cooper's regular proximity to Rory O'Carroll over the last three seasons, his is an educated appraisal of the size and shape of the vacuum left in the Dublin back line by O'Carroll's open-ended sabbatical.

Recently, Cooper has been the man-marker/forward-scamperer to O'Carroll's house-minder in Dublin's second-to-last line of defence and can thus testify to both his worth and loss.

"I think the mantra has always been among ourselves - albeit Rory is a big presence - that you have to stick your hand up the highest if you want the jersey," Cooper says.

"There are always two or three guys going for the same jersey.

"Obviously Rory has had it for the last couple of years but it's just another opportunity for somebody else now."

The notion that Dublin are better endowed than most to lose a multiple All Star is undoubtedly true.

As is the theory that specialist, meaty full-backs like O'Carroll are no longer an imperative in the filling of the number three jersey.

Yet since 2010, arguably no Dublin player, bar Stephen Cluxton, has been so notable in their absence as O'Carroll.

"I don't think there's any like-for-like player available in any position for us," notes Cooper when it's put to him that whoever mans that particular role will be a variation of the O'Carroll theme, rather than an O'Carroll impersonator.

"You're probably alluding to Rory's presence and his capacity in filling that role in the number three jersey …obviously he did it very well.

"Is there a like for like replacement for him? No, probably not directly.

"But there's probably someone who has a different skill that Rory didn't have, and vice-versa in any other position. So that's just the way it is."

If nothing else, O'Carroll has ensured that the skyways around the Dublin goal are kept clear and forced teams to navigate a less detectable route towards Cluxton.

Kieran Donaghy's influence in big games against Dublin since O'Carroll's emergence being a pressing case in point.


Those long, speculative deliveries only need to work once in a tight, important game for Dublin to sharply feel the absence of O'Carroll.

"We obviously look at teams, and they look at us, and how we can exploit Rory (his absence) in the air," Cooper explains.

"Again his physical presence was probably felt by opposition markers so yeah, absolutely, teams probably will try something different.

"It's an evolving process we have here and we have to try and counter-act that and build our defensive structures in a way that will suit us."

All of which makes Dublin's League campaign a little more interesting than would normally have been the case.

No more than how Jim Gavin addressed the defensive inadequacies exposed by Donegal during last year's spring campaign made watching their matches that bit more educational, how and with whom he chooses to replace O'Carroll will be a constant narrative before the start of this summer.

Otherwise, it's been a more eventful week for the Dublin footballers than is the norm in January,

The arrival of his former team-mate Bryan Cullen as coach to the senior setup and High Performance Director Dublin GAA as a whole is, according to Cooper, "exciting."

"I'm excited and we're excited to work with him but I think as a whole, all of Dublin GAA should be excited about what he's going to bring to the table and more or less get everybody singing off the same hymn sheet."

Similarly, Cooper offered no excuses for Dublin's first loss since last March in Longford on Sunday in their O'Byrne Cup semi-final.


The hosts were, he explained: "just better, cleaner, sharper. I'd probably put it down to them wanting it more."

He continued: "They've obviously trained a little bit more, for a little bit longer than we have been back. That's still no excuse whenever you put on a Dublin jersey.

"There's a few people sore today, knocks physically.

"There were standards we didn't adhere to," Cooper added, "and that's something for us to go and rectify."

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