Possibly the final major GAA news story of 2022 was, to this writer at least, a surprising one. It being the announcement by Dublin’s Jonny Cooper that he has taken his leave of the inter county stage.
The Na Fianna clubman has been very nearly ever present since the blue wave which transformed Gaelic football history first began to whip up in 2011. He was the rock around which the most incredible force the game has seen was built.
Cooper perhaps typifies the modern footballer better than anyone. It is not, as Captain Mainwaring might have said to Jones, drifting into the realms of fantasy, to suggest he could and would fill it at full forward if needed.
He was the sticking plaster that routinely cleaned if or when an opponent managed to inflict even superficial wounds on the boys in blue. The major part of his job description being to quench the fire of an opponents’ top gun.
That meant some great tussles over the years with the likes of Colm Cooper, Cillian O’Connor and Paddy McBrearty, to name but three. For somebody from a county that came up against him more than most he presented the great conundrum.
You were sick of the sight of him shackling your best forward but conversely would love to have him within your own ranks. Personally speaking, he was my kind of defender. Playing on the edge or sometimes over it. No harm in that.
Take the ball and if the man gets in the way bring him too. Go through him rather than round him. Good. Old fashioned. Hardy. Of course he will be a loss to Dessie Farrell’s side, but they are in the fortunate position that few if any of their contemporaries are in having a ready-made like for like replacement in the fold in the person of Eoin Murchan, complete with good Meath blood.
It would be foolhardy in the extreme and/or wishful thinking to presume that Cooper’s abdication would lead to any diminishment in his erstwhile colleagues’ productivity. But at least the time for talking is almost over, let the games begin!