Jonny Cooper: 'There was a fair bit of bite to clash with Donegal'
Cooper says Dublin team-mates are taking more responsibility
HAD Maurice Deegan acted only slightly more scrupulously in his adjudication on Saturday night, we might easily have had a Mardi Gras of multi-coloured cards waved freely around Croke Park.
As it was, there were just four, the Laois officials' threshold for legal interaction apparently elasticated in the presence of two teams indulging with aplomb.
"The way Donegal play, there is a lot of contact in certain areas," reasons Dubs defender Jonny Cooper, a survivor of the duration on Saturday.
"They get a lot of bodies into the contact zone. It would be tough, trying to deal with the amount of bodies in there.
"With our own game, we wouldn't be used to that in the way we set up. So it would be different.
"So that's the interesting thing as footballers. Can we be dynamic? Can we think on our feet? It's a nice thing to deal with.
"We're not robots. We're not pre-programmed. You have to go out and just deal with it."
Which isn't to say that Dublin were necessarily enamoured by all of Deegan's decisions, but sleeping dogs are better left undisturbed at this juncture.
"From our point of view, when you're playing the game, that's the way it goes," Cooper shrugs.
"You can't have too many complaints. There is a process and everything else in place for looking at how refs do in their own performance.
"From our point of view, there's not much we can control. Yeah, there was a fair bit of bite to it but in February, when the challenge is laid down to you as a squad, I think it's nice to get those questions asked in terms of your discipline and everything else.
"It's nice to get those things early on in the year."
Nice too, surely, to win, particularly against Donegal and even more so having played those fractious closing passages with just 14 men, following Kevin McManamon's dismissal.
Indeed, Dublin looked almost more comfortable in their reduced state than they had with 15.
According to Cooper though, it's not a scenario for which they have any stock contingency.
"A lot of it would be off-the-cuff," he explains. "It's funny how things go when you're a man down. I think the underlying factor was the work rate, across the board.
"There's a shared responsibility, the tracking, whoever the spare man would be.
"I don't think there was any set plan or routine. These things just happen for whatever reason. And the lads who are on the pitch for the 25 minutes, they had that work-rate."
Similarly, increased familiarity with the sort of constrictive setup must now be of benefit to Dublin, encountering some version of it, as they tend to now, in most of their competitive matches.
"A lot of team have adopted it," Cooper confirms.
"And it's nice to have those challenges, to have to think outside the box. To think on our feet. Certainly, to try and overcome them as best you can.
"Sometimes, in the past, we haven't done that. But that's the challenge for as a squad and as footballers, to try and come up with the answers."
Afterwards, Rory Gallagher (below) noted how Dublin looked "a wee bit more cautious," in their alignment than they were last year, a development most likely attributable to the All-Ireland semi-final between the teams and the second half in which Jim Gavin's team were exposed.
"It's just the way it fell last year. That's the way it went. It's in the past," Cooper insists.
"As a team, the fundamental thing would be the hunger that we have back.
"We would be quite similar across the board really."
Writing in his new newspaper column yesterday, former Mayo manager James Horan surmised that winning on Saturday night was of far more benefit to Dublin than anything they would encounter in the Leinster Championship.
Cooper is similarly optimistic for Dublin's spring in the aftermath of the victory, though his is for the performances of the newer members of the squad than any settling of old scores.
"Maybe it's just players taking a bit more responsibility within the group in terms of implementing the game plan that Jim wants," Cooper says.
"Taking that bit more ownership of the process itself and driving forward from inside rather than just relying on Jim and his management team."