Friday 17 January 2020

Dublin aren't robots and money is not the key

Cooper insists that, behind the stereotype, All-Ireland kingpins are human after all

Dublin’s Jonny Cooper
Dublin’s Jonny Cooper

To set the record straight, Jonny Cooper is happy to confirm that he's not a robot.

The Dublin All Star defender was speaking at the National Sports Campus yesterday (without any microchip assistance) just hours after county board CEO John Costello had launched his latest annual secretary's report.

The same report that defended Jim Gavin's all-conquering Sky Blue machine against the accusation that they are not human but rather emotionless 'automatons'.

For all his wise-cracking tone, Costello was deadly keen to make his point in the one place he invariably reserves for addressing any anti-Dub invective over the past 12 months.

Cooper was happy to take up the baton - as well as another Costello theme, rubbishing the claim that Dublin's current glory reign is directly linked to the size of games development grant-aid received by the capital.

"Yeah, we do get a lot of that 'robots' and we're very strict and don't have personalities and all that sort of stuff - and I guess people take it on face value," he begins.


"They see us over 60 or 70-minute periods in a game and that's a certain portion of our behaviour and they kind of see that as the rest of the picture for us, which isn't the case.

"Then I guess there's other things around money," he continues. "Like everyone else in the country, we still have to get up and do our gym session at whatever time - 6.30, 7am - use the same equipment, so from that point of view I can't see the argument that it's more money in totality going to Dublin, which equals success, which people obviously have that opinion about too.

"I see it from the players' side: we still eat the same stuff, put in the same level of preparation as everyone else, and we don't get any extra money to do that."

All of this should not be read as a Cooper 'rant'. Where others might counter with accusations of bias or envy, the Na Fianna man merely says: "I think people are entitled to their opinion, to be quite honest about it.

"Everyone has a different perspective. If you're inside the bubble, you have a completely different perspective than journalists or family or fans or anyone else for that matter.


"If that is people's opinion around finance, then so be it. I think John (Costello) is trying to furnish some of the facts as well as some comments, to give it a bit of context."

The irony is that if you trawl back to the noughties, when Dublin were (still) winning Leinsters but falling persistently short of Sam, they were decried as too flamboyant.

Asked if there has been a concerted move away from this perception, Cooper replies: "I think it's just subtly been there, particularly with this management group but also the bit I was there with Pat (Gilroy).

"Not that the guys before weren't hard working or anything like that, but I guess there was a little bit more of the flashiness or whatever came with it. I'm sure that was fine at that particular time, and there were reasons for doing different things ...

"So, it's just been subtly in the background, year after year, getting more ... just down to earth and going about your business and no airs or graces."


Going about your business in 2019 mightn't be so easy, of course. The great five-in-a-row debate carries with it a different type of danger for Dublin: instead of the robotic jibes, they will be hailed by others as the greatest ever.

"You hear it all," Cooper concurs, "from one extreme to the other. From 'process', 'no personality' - right up to 'you're the best thing since sliced bread'. Probably neither is true ... it's probably somewhere in the middle.

"That potential complacency that comes with getting plaudits or successes or records or anything else is obviously very dangerous. As is engaging or trying to have conversion with people who think finance is the main driver of your success.

"I guess it's probably having that awareness from a player's point of view, and having that bit of experience to know how to deal with conversations."

Was he always able to walk that fine line? "Earlier in my career I would have got more consumed, whether it was around something like me not playing well, or 'Jeez I should be playing' ... I would have fallen into that trap," he admits.

"But as the years have progressed I've learned that neither is accurate, and it's about staying true to yourself, and the people and colleagues and management who ultimately give you the best steer in that bubble. Hopefully I've learned."

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