Tuesday 25 September 2018

Jonny takes pride in his defence

Dublin’s full-back line go a long way towards silencing their critics as they snuff out threat

Jonny Cooper was happy with the performance of the Dublin defence against Donegal on Saturday. Pic: Sportsfile
Jonny Cooper was happy with the performance of the Dublin defence against Donegal on Saturday. Pic: Sportsfile

Perhaps the most striking feature of Dublin's performance on Saturday night was just how easily they controlled the win over Donegal.

Whereas two years ago, they were flustered and beaten before the final whistle, here Dublin manipulated Donegal and their movements with just 13 men.

Besides the two sendings off and a turnover goal, Dublin never looked particularly hassled, even in the face of the sort of provocation Jim Gavin referenced afterwards.

"It's an inter-county game, it's an All-Ireland quarter-final. You go into it with your eyes open," Jonny Cooper told the Herald.

"We're not silly. And the personnel around you aren't silly.

Dublin’s David Byrne wins possession ahead of Donegal’s Michael Murphy. Pic: Sportsfile
Dublin’s David Byrne wins possession ahead of Donegal’s Michael Murphy. Pic: Sportsfile

"But yeah, it can be tough for any official to deal with. As a player, yeah, you prepare for it as best as you can in these situations and react to them.

"I thought mostly, apart from the (sending off) incidents, I thought the lads did have that bit of control and they responded, as opposed to reacting.

"It's going to happen at some stage in the game so you have to respond and control as best you can."

Diarmuid Connolly was one who, in Gavin's eyes, fell victim to Donegal's goading.

"It's challenging for the Diarmuid Connollys of this world," Cooper pointed out.

"I'm sure with his skill set and his talent that he gets a bit more special attention.

"But he's experienced enough to know now that's he's going to get it. He's dealt with it his whole career.

"I don't think it's going to be any different against Kerry. Naturally enough, they're going to curtail his influence on the game.

"So it's a challenge for Diarmuid to try and manage that and be in control at all times. It's not always easy in the heat of the battle.

"When you have a split second to make a tackle or make a decision, that's just a challenge."

So mostly, Dublin had their bases covered.

Donegal, Cooper pointed out "bring a certain dynamic, a certain rawness and an energy to the game that's quite challenging."


When they broke from deep, Dublin's defence looked measured and only once lost their shape.

"You could have Paddy McGrath up kicking a point as easily as you could have Paddy McBrearty," Cooper noted.

"So from that point of view, we gave them the utmost of respect.

"We went into it with our eyes open. 2014 was a learning curve for us. So we tried to bring those learnings into the match and again, that bit of defensive structure to try and curtail that threat."

Cooper has been hearing about the vulnerability of Dublin's full-back line for as long as he's been a member.

First, it was their obsession with attack and their man-for-man press that left the second last line of defence ill-protected.

More recently, Rory O'Carroll's abdication of the number three jersey was held aloft as an indicator of renewed weakness.

"It's probably been a point since Jim started that our full-back line was susceptible to the high balls," Cooper admits.

"So yeah, when somebody tells you…or when there's a perception out there that…we're competitive guys, so naturally enough you'll go after what people see as a weakness on our behalf."

Not once on Saturday night, even with Michael Murphy lurking, did Dublin offer a goal chance through this route.

"I thought we did extremely well," Cooper reckoned.

"Any ball that went into them…by and large, off the top of my head, I can't think of any goal chances that came off that high ball.

"But again, that threat is always there. Maybe people just put a narrative on it that they want outside the group."

Uniquely, they go into an All-Ireland semi-final against a Kerry team with a complex about their recent proclivity for losing to Dublin.

"I suppose that's in the history books, those results already. That's for people to weigh up and judge whatever way they want," Cooper stressed.

"But from our point of view, it's just about looking at them now in a couple of weeks time.

"It's going to be a big challenge. They've earmarked this….they've been in the long grass the last couple of weeks."

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