Not many people would claim to feel lucky after being stabbed multiple times and yet Dublin’s Jonny Cooper has no doubt he was fortunate not to have suffered a worse fate when he was attacked in a late-night incident just over a year ago.
The Na Fianna footballer was set upon at approximately 5.30am on the morning of September 20 last year on Upper Dorset Street in Dublin and was subsequently taken to the nearby Mater Hospital where he received stitches before being discharged.
“I’m sure people go through a lot more torturous things, illnesses and whatever, and I am incredibly lucky to have a lot of opportunities playing with Dublin, playing at Croke Park, representing my club and my family.
“The positives always outweigh the negatives for me,” said Cooper who spoke highly of the role played by people in Dublin GAA circles and beyond. “People go through a lot more than I have. I am always conscious of that. I was fine, that’s the main thing.”
Cooper has spoken to the media many times since the incident, but never without the request being made by Dublin officials that the incident be left to one side. Yet, the defender was more than open yesterday in discussing what is obviously a painful chapter in his life.
A number of Dublin players were appearing at SuperValu, Knocklyon on the capital city’s southside to help launch the supermarket’s new car and home insurance offering in association with AIG and Cooper was aware that his story could well be of some value to others.
He was alone in the city centre at the time the incident occurred and he stressed that, while most places are safe, it would be prudent for people to stick together rather than wander off alone in such circumstances in order to minimise the risk to their personal safety.
“Going forward, if I can help someone else, and if someone can learn from my own misfortunes and mistakes, it’s even more important,” he acknowledged. It is what it is. Incidents happen all the time.
“Maybe because I play for Dublin there was more of platform and more light got shed on it around the country, but the support that came in from across the country was what I needed and it got me through a tough period.”
Cooper was speaking the morning after Tipperary hurler Noel McGrath discussed his return to the game after a battle with cancer on national TV, though the Dubliner is mindful his isn’t a story that should be rammed down people’s throats. He has moved on from it himself. He hasn’t bothered to keep track of the legal consequences for his assailant — a man was later charged over the incident — but he does admit the entire incident has altered his approach to life for the better.
“I suppose I always took Dublin and a lot of things for granted up until that happened and something like that changes everything. It refocuses, gets your feet back on the ground, because those opportunities might not be there again.
“That personal journey was something I had to go on at the start. Then going back into the team environment, your personal situation and ego and everything else goes out the window, so I was glad for that to come around when it did at the end of December and January.”
He had his doubts. Would he get to lace his boots again? Would he wear a Dublin jersey again? Yet, those thoughts evaporated once it became clear his injuries were superficial and the doctor assured him he was fine.
“I was extremely lucky from that point of view,” he said.
He hit the ground running on his return. In April, he collected his third Allianz League medal and by September he had added another Leinster title and a second All-Ireland to his burgeoning collection having started every one of Dublin’s seven championship outings.
“Yeah, it’s been a bit of a journey for me personally. Winning the All-Ireland is as good as it’s going to get for any one of us and as a team. And, on a personal level getting to play, getting a jersey, is the other goal. And both were achieved for me.”
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