Shortly after Dublin’s footballers won the All- Ireland five in a row last September, an interviewer teased it out of Jonny Cooper that he is an introvert. It was a surprising admission from a high achiever, but a few months on, he acknowledges he is also an obsessive.
That, more than his inclination towards introversion, is what occupies Cooper’s mind for long spells; not quite an obsession about not obsessing, but you get his drift.
Was he always an obsessive character?
“Eh, yeah, and I think it’s worked for me in lots of ways, and it’s worked against me in lots of ways,” he said.
“Has it tipped the scales a couple of times? Yeah, it definitely has. Have I not put in and invested time into relationships? Yep, that’s definitely been the case. Have I done too much on football and has that gone against me? Yeah.
“So it’s trying to now, with the experience I’ve gained, with lots of of failure and some successes, it’s trying to get that middle and that sweet spot.
“I certainly don’t think there’s anything wrong with being obsessive and driving on and not accepting anything other than being at the top.
“I think that’s the challenge of sport and I love it. It keeps me alive,” says Cooper.
He isn’t the first sports star to figure himself as obsessive. Truth be told, many top Gaelic footballers and hurlers probably identify with most of what Cooper is talking about.
“Yeah, you see lots of them; the rugby guys, for instance. If you speak with Owen Farrell and these guys, they are just non-stop, so it’s interesting to hear different perspectives,” says Cooper.
“Some are non-stop. Some have four kids at home, and they figure it out, and some in the GAA, obviously, have big jobs and what not. It’s just trying to figure it out for you, what you are good at.
“Obsessive is probably my starting point and, now, I am trying to figure out a little bit more of a smart way of how to focus and extract the right amount from myself at the right time, by talking to the right people, asking the right questions, and so on.”
Inevitably, it can be a struggle for a deep thinker to hit the ‘off’ button.
“Ah, yeah, that’s always been the case,” says Cooper. “I have tried, at different times, to pull back and set up different things to allow me to pull back, but, ultimately, I want what I want, and I want to achieve what I want to achieve, sporting and otherwise.”
With a mind that is constantly ticking over, being sent off in last year’s drawn All-Ireland final, for getting too up close and personal with David Clifford, tormented Cooper, who pored over everything he could have done better.
“Yeah, yeah, you really are, I would have been (doing that),” says Cooper.
“It wouldn’t necessarily be the case for other people, but, yeah, you are going back and that’s what I learned over the years: you go back to the eye of the storm, right back into the centre of it, and find the root cause. You get honest opinions.
“With the tight turnaround time, obviously, it made it very unique, but now, looking back, it was a very powerful experience, a very valuable experience to go back inside yourself and figure it out.”
Cooper could have blamed referee David Gough for issuing the two yellow cards that led to his dismissal, but wasn’t about to do that.
“And the answer was probably, obviously enough, ‘no’, because I was caught out, in terms of the positions I put myself in,” says Cooper.
He wasn’t happy with 2019, reasoning that he didn’t get his ‘balance’ right between work, life, and football, and is seeking improvement.
“It was poor,” he says of his form.
“I didn’t do justice to myself in lots of different factors and, ultimately, I nearly cost the team a great deal. There were a couple of lessons for me that I have taken and reflected on and talked to people about, trying to bring it into this year.”
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