A few weeks on from McMahon’s comments about Kerry’s newfound aggressive streak, which angered Kingdom boss Eamonn Fitzmaurice, the wily Dublin defender was yesterday offered the chance to heap praise on Cooper.
Yet instead of indulging in stock cliches or highlighting the genius of the Dr Crokes man as many of his peers have, McMahon, who marked ‘Gooch’ so well in the 2015 All-Ireland final, kicked to touch.
Asked yesterday if he’ll miss the ‘Gooch’, McMahon responded he didn’t actually get to mark him that much.
He said: “Probably only three or four times. Will I miss him? I don’t know. Would I miss any player that I mark? I won’t lose sleep.”
He said he was surprised Cooper didn’t hang around after winning an AIB All- Ireland Club medal last month to play for Kerry in the league final.
“I thought he would have played that game,” said McMahon. “But when you look at him winning the club championship, that was probably the last one on his bucket list.
“So probably not (surprised he retired). But if it was me, I would have played.”
McMahon revealed after the 2015 final, when Dublin beat Kerry, and when he himself outscored Cooper, the duo had words at the final whistle.
He said at the time: “We spoke and I said to him, ‘you play your style of football and I’ll play my style of football’. We both respected that and shook hands.”
Offered another chance to praise Cooper at the launch of the 2017 John West Féile na nGael tournament, McMahon again veered away from diplomacy and even appeared to question the ability of those who marked the Killarney attacker over the years.
“It’s very hard for me to rate him because I would have loved to have marked him two or three years (earlier), let’s say 2012 or 2011, around that stage,” he said.
“I would have loved to have marked him to see what he was capable of. All players in my head are really good if they’re not challenged, if they’re not taken outside their comfort zone.
“But there’s no doubt...who am I to question what he won or how good he was? He certainly has won a lot, you have to respect that and he’ll always be remembered by this generation anyway that he was one of the best forwards.”
McMahon weighed in on the great barstool debate of the last decade about exactly who was better, ‘Gooch’ or Dublin’s Bernard Brogan, two players he personally marked.
The four-time All-Ireland medal winner said: “Bernard would obviously be more physical. I suppose they’re similar in a way that they can score from anywhere. Give them a bit of space and they’ll shoot and they’ll score.
“Cooper would have probably been, certainly in his latter years, coming out around the D, dinking balls in. Bernard wouldn’t be doing that. Bernard was more an inside man.
“Bernard, aerially, is probably a little bit better, I feel anyway. I don’t remember Cooper ever being a target man on top of the square. Skill-wise, Cooper was very tricky, he sold me a couple of dummies in his time anyway. Both good players, both skilful, both sharpshooters.”
McMahon reflected on his comments earlier this month, before the league final, when he suggested Kerry had added aggression to their game in an effort to overcome Dublin. It was part of a wider commentary at the time about Kerry’s physicality which annoyed Fitzmaurice and prompted him to respond with a hard hitting statement outlining various instances of Dublin cynicism over the years.
“I wasn’t complaining about it,” said McMahon “They were aggressive. We’re aggressive. Every team’s aggressive. You also know the difference between being aggressive and going a step ahead, in a good way. I like playing teams that have something different.
“So if I said Kerry were a bit more aggressive and that was a difference, it wasn’t meant in a negative way. It was something that made us step outside our comfort zone and say, ‘how do we adapt to this?’”
McMahon took umbrage at the suggestion Dublin’s one-point league final defeat, their first loss in the league or Championship in over two years, has given hope to the rest of their rivals.
“I’d look at it the opposite way,” said the back to back All-Star. “If I was a different county, would I be happy that Dublin lost? Not really, not unless I was the team that actually beat them. Okay, if I was the Kerry team I’d be saying ‘we beat Dublin’. But other counties that haven’t beaten us taking something out of it, I don’t think it’s a good thing for them. They haven’t beaten us.”