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Saturday 20 October 2018

Cooper: Loss of confidence blunted my ambition

Dublin's Johnny Cooper during a press conference ahead of their side's Allianz Football League, Division 1, game against Mayo on Saturday. Picture: Brian Lawless/Sportsfile.
Dublin's Johnny Cooper during a press conference ahead of their side's Allianz Football League, Division 1, game against Mayo on Saturday. Picture: Brian Lawless/Sportsfile.

FROM his on-pitch demeanour - and indeed his media-handling at yesterday's Dublin football press briefing at the Gibson Hotel . . .

. . . you wouldn't fathom Jonny Cooper lacking confidence in any significant way.

But that's precisely the ailment the Na Fianna man now feels afflicted his ambitions to have a more involved role with the Dubs last summer.

A scoring cameo from the bench in his senior debut against Armagh last March in Croke Park (as Dublin ran out convincing 4-17 to 1-10 victors) preceded consecutive starts (and strong performances) against Donegal and Mayo, with Cooper finishing the league in Pat Gilroy's final spring XV against Cork.

And then, inexplicably, he vanished.

Twelve minutes as a sub in Dublin's Leinster SFC opener against Louth was the sum total of Cooper's game time in the championship at a time when he was being tipped to barge his way permanently into view. "I was doing well and the confidence was probably up," he notes of his spring appearances.

"Then, all of a sudden, the league was over and there was a five or six-week gap and I probably just lost my confidence.

"When I did regain it, the team was already set. Or the 22 or 23 was already set. So I would say that this year, for me anyway, confidence is probably the thing that is a big help for me at the minute."

Which begs the question as to how a footballer like Cooper, captain of an All-Ireland U21 winning team and a Sigerson Cup medallist loses such a quality so quickly.

On the pitch, he looked fine. Better than that, even.

 

Inexperience

But his big chance, as he admits, was being hindered by internal noises which took over, but which he now attributes to inexperience.

"Coming in last year after they had won the All-Ireland ... you're probably coming in in awe of the team," he admits, candidly.

"There are so many lads you would have seen play throughout the years and on TV and that sort of thing.

"Last year, when I came in first, I was playing off the cuff. Then, it probably caught up on me a small bit, who I was playing with. It was just inexperience on my behalf."

Then, along came Jim Gavin who thought enough of Cooper to make him captain in 2010, when Dublin beat a Donegal team managed by Jim McGuinness and captained by Michael Murphy to All-Ireland U21 honours.

Needless to say, Cooper's immediate reaction was optimistic, but he saw enough in his time already served under the new man not to expect anything handy.

"It was definitely a positive reaction," he explains.

"And it's not just Jim. He brought in a couple of lads who I would have worked with before, management team-wise.

"I suppose I'd be that bit more comfortable and probably the same with the 10 or 12 lads who played under him. I'm that bit more comfortable with Jim.

"In terms of the way he plays and the way he sets up and the way he comes to training, his approach, that has always been the same. So from that aspect, yeah, it has been an advantage but in terms of playing or any sort of favours, it wouldn't be," he concluded.

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