Colm Cooper says Jim Gavin is right to defend his Dublin team if he believes they are perceived as cynical.
Much in the way Éamonn Fitzmaurice came to the aid of his Kerry side after bad press, Cooper feels Gavin is entitled to support his players.
Last week, the Dublin manager insisted the narrative about Dublin was negative after Fitzmaurice previously claimed Dublin had played a part in Kerry being portrayed in a bad light.
The recently-retired eight-time All-Star accepts the pair are also playing mind games and attempting to exact influence.
“Well, no different from the players, they’re looking for percentages to back their team and maybe play a bit of mind games if you want to call it that.
“Éamonn stoked it up a little bit before the league final with his comments and Jim has done that in the past where he’s said that Kerry are very physical and overly aggressive.
“I think Paul Curran wrote an article recently enough as well criticising Kerry.
“They have to do what’s right for their team and if they feel they’re being harshly treated or unfairly treated, they’re going to play those mind games. They’re very clever people. I met Jim last week at a different event in AIB and we were just chatting about it. He wouldn’t be doing his job if he doesn’t stand up for his team and the fellas he’s training. That’s just part and parcel of what goes on. There’ll be plenty of mind games going on throughout the summer from other counties and it’s what gets us interested.”
Cooper joins Pat Spillane and Tomás Ó Sé as the third Kerry man on RTÉ GAA’s rota while Dublin have one in Ciarán Whelan.
“It’s funny to see some of the Kerry fellas involved, not just in RTÉ but in writing in the media as well,” agreed Cooper.
“It’s fairly stacked but I’m sure that will level out in the next couple of years when some of these Dublin guys retire. I’m sure they’ll be involved in the media in some way.
“People from around the country would feel Kerry have an unfair bias on Sunday nights but when you look at the other guys, they have very strong characters and there won’t be any shrinking violets when it comes to taking on the Kerry fellas.”
Spillane said he plays no role in a pro-Kerry narrative. “This is interesting because in Kerry people say I’m anti-Kerry. Outside of Kerry, they say I’m pro-Kerry so damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
“I don’t know Eamonn Fitzmaurice. I think I’ve met him once in my life. In terms of the Kerry players, I know the lads from Templenoe. Have I ever met another Kerry player socially? No, I haven’t.
“One thing I have done down through the years which you might agree or disagree with me on whether it’s Kerry or anyone else I don’t think anyone can ever say there was incident when people would say, ‘Jesus, you were pro-Kerry or you were a bit soft on Kerry there or you were driving a Kerry agenda’. You’ll get honesty.”
Ó Sé isn’t certain Gavin is trying to convince referees that Dublin are not cynical.
“I think the media have a lot to do with it. They’ll push it and say, ‘Jeez he’s trying to pressure the refs here.’
“I think he’s (Gavin) trying to look out for his team. I think Fitzmaurice is the same. You’d hope, and this is the problem we have every year with the Sunday Game, you’d hope that the referees will show some consistency.”
Whelan senses the situation has become “pantomime” – “I think the landscape has changed and there is so much going on, on social media, a lot of people have views and one comment can be twisted into an agenda and Éamonn Fitzmaurice was very strong on his comments before the national league final. I think Jim Gavin, likewise, made a strategic statement. I think it’s a bit of the pantomime that goes on. I don’t think it really influences or gets to referees at the end of the day.”
Meanwhile, Cooper regards this championship as Mayo’s make-or-break one. “If they don’t do it this year I think the squad are going to break up. There’s a lot of miles on the clock – Keith Higgins, Colm Boyle, a couple more players. They’ve a lot of miles on the clock and have been amazing players for Mayo.
“But I just get a sense if it doesn’t arrive for them this year, it may be hard for Stephen Rochford to keep all them together. Or maybe he might just come with a fresh approach. It’s a big year for them.”
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