Gavin hails Cooper as 'one tough man' as holders shape up for Sam
Jim Gavin has described Jonny Cooper as "one tough man" as he lauded the All Star defender's first Dublin appearance since a league loss to Tyrone in March.
Four months on, Cooper enjoyed an eight-minute cameo (injury-time included) at the end of Saturday's 'Super 8s' opener against Cork.
The Na Fianna man's return from a troublesome foot injury, coupled with a stoppage-time cameo from James McCarthy after his Leinster final knee injury scare, crowned a very positive night for Gavin.
"Jonny has been really diligent in his recovery," he said. "It's just about getting the timing right. He's been training really well in recent weeks and, yeah, he played well when he came on too."
When asked if it had been a frustrating period for Cooper, the Dublin manager replied: "If it was, he didn't show it. He put his head down and worked hard at his recovery. The medical team gave him great support. But it's all down to the player and his mindset. He's one tough man and mentally very strong so, yeah, good to see him back."
McCarthy's on-field absence has been far shorter but, after initial doomsday fears of season-ending ligament damage, his speedy return to full training last week was a timely boost as Dublin seek to wrap up a tenth consecutive All-Ireland semi-final appearance.
Despite Cork's flying start, Gavin rejected any suggestion of initial sluggishness after their latest Leinster cruise. "We did well to limit Cork to 1-17. They're a very potent side. Coming into this game they'd scored 10-48 (in three games)," he pointed out.
"We just took our goal opportunities a little bit better than they did, and that was probably the difference in the end."
Especially after Luke Connolly's penalty had breathed fresh third-quarter hope into Cork.
"This Dublin team has been very resilient over the years. They (Cork) brought it back to three points in the second half, and again I thought our guys responded really well to that challenge. We went through our phases and got a couple of scores on the board," he said.
"For myself and the management team, it's just a privilege to work with them. To see the respect that they paid Cork in the lead-in to this game, and how diligent they were with their preparation. There was no sense of disrespect. It was just all hands to the deck.
"And we've got a whole host of players who didn't even travel today, who are putting in a serious shift."
For his opposite number, the post-match mood was pride mixed with regret at Dublin's late goal-rush. But Ronan McCarthy insisted Cork hadn't come to Croker in search of moral victories ahead of Saturday's pivotal HQ date with Tyrone.
"We had huge expectations for ourselves," he said. "We came up to win the game tonight, we haven't; no question Dublin were deserving winners.
"But you can lose a game and be beaten emphatically and you can lose a game where you went out and gave it your all, went at the opposition, good and all as they are.
"We paid a heavy price in the last five minutes of normal time and then injury-time; I think we might have conceded 3-3 in that period. That's where we just need to be a bit more clever in future and a bit more solid, not leave ourselves as open.
"We weren't coming up to hold out own for 45 or 50 minutes and that's the danger, that you come away and pat yourself on the back and say, 'Weren't we great for 50 minutes?'
"What I really liked from the performance was the fact that we conceded a really poor goal before half-time and were six down and the expectancy was that Dublin would pull away. A bit like the Kerry game we didn't lie down, we came back and won a penalty.
"But, trying to be objective about it, they always seemed to be a bit more in control in the game than we were and that's something we're going to just have to learn.
"Leave out the last five or six minutes, in general throughout the game they looked more in control than we were, apart from maybe the first 15 minutes where I thought we played some really great stuff."