The Dublin full back warns against complacency and says he can handle the pressure of becoming a senior player
Dublin brushed aside all in their path in the league campaign, the tournament culminating with a final against Kerry which carried more importance than anticipated.
Monaghan kept them to just a solitary point, while Mayo tried to drag them into a dogfight in Castlebar, but the end result was the same. The Dublin juggernaut rolls on and as hot favourites to retain their All-Ireland crown, their annual procession through Leinster begins at Nowlan Park in three week's time where they'll meet either Laois or Wicklow.
While many consider the gap between the capital and the rest of the province to be growing all the time, full back Jonny Cooper maintains that the mindset hasn't sunk into the group.
"The pundits and the media and everyone is saying [there's a gap] and it’s probably getting bigger. From our point of view it is what it is, we try to look after ourselves. It’s up to everyone else to row their own boat and that’s what we’re doing certainly.
"I think you do get used to it to a certain extent as well. A lot of people do say it and do want to talk about it, but again I think it comes back to the intrinsic motivation that’s there. If you want to let it seep in and listen to the plaudits or the claps on your back you’ll probably fall behind fairly quickly, because I know other people don’t do it on the team.
"People say it to you and people talk to you about it but it’s very much the shutters are pulled down when the conversation is gone, you move on to whatever is coming that night."
Kerry fought valiantly against Dublin at Croke Park two weeks ago, but after Aidan O'Mahony's sending off there was only one way the contest was going to go. While Mayo are in a period of transition under Stephen Rochford and Donegal prime themselves for a hugely competitive Ulster Championship, Dublin's closest rivals appear off the pace.
The repeat of last September's All-Ireland final against Kerry may have carried more of a challenge that Jim Gavin's side were looking for and that the heightened importance of this year's league campaign will benefit the Dubs.
David Treacy and Jonny Cooper Noelle Healy and Ali Twomey at the launch of Dublin's new "traditional" jersey yesterday. Image: AIG
"We probably hear it every year [that Dublin are favourites], definitely in the last couple of years we've heard it more.
"2014 [against Donegal] was a bit of a warning shot that if you’re not in some way right on the day… I don’t think there was one particular player or one particular thing, but I just thought we didn't bring enough energy on that particular day.
"We got caught and [the mindset] is what we have to have going forward. Every single county is out to get us more than anyone else. We have to be as sharp as we can be or else we’ll get caught. That’s what happened two years ago."
Expectation will play it's part and impact on the mentality of the squad. Of course, what separates the elite players from the rest is their ability to play with the additional expectation. Couple this with the departure of some high profile team-mates and adjusting to a new role, Cooper has a big summer ahead. But the pressure, he says, will only make him better.
"I've always said [the position] is quite dynamic and certainly with Rory [O'Carroll] gone, people said that a traditional full back was gone, whatever that is, but it’s certainly not there at the moment the way the game is.
"I think it’s quite dynamic anyway, my experience has been quite dynamic. You can play in a number of ways and a number of eventualities what they do and the types of plays.
"I've played with him for a number of years so from that point of view I’d notice [his absence]. But it has to be cold, as Jim says it’s the next man up and that’s exactly what it is. Just because you’re missing your buddy next to you doesn't really matter, it’s the man next to you that steps up.
"But yeah, you miss him to a certain extent. We have to quickly get over the fact that he’s gone, we wished him well and that was it really."
Rory O'Carroll will play no part in this year's Championship campaign. Image: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Dublin will have to cope not only with the loss of O'Carroll, but the departing Jack McCaffery who heads to Africa this summer as part of his medical studies in UCD. So how does Cooper feel about stepping into the breach of becoming a senior player?
"The more experienced guys? I’m getting old… I’m 26… Eh, Yeah the guys left and that’s fine and obviously they played last year so they were a hole out of our defence. I suppose initially you’re looking to everyone else to see who is going to step up and who wants to step up. See who wants to take the title as such and who wants to get in there.
"Lucky enough there’s been a good group of boys, some more so than others, that have stepped up to the plate and got good game time in the league. I suppose you could say the experienced guys have had a look around and pushed other people that might not have otherwise thought they had a chance or certainly as quick of a chance now that the two lads are gone.
"I've always felt pressure playing in there [the backs] every since I've got a start with Jim [Gavin] and the pressure has been no more or less in comparison to other years."
A number of younger players have stepped into the breach, Whitehall Colmcilles man Cormac Costello had a sparkling league campaign and with Gavin in charge, there's no time to rest on your laurels.
"If you’re complacent you won’t play for this team We’re all extremely competitive individuals. If you’re complacent that’s fine, but you won’t play. And if you don’t play you won’t get as much enjoyment out of it from my point of view anyway.
"That’s my approach, other lads might be different I don’t know. You want that jersey and you want to be as humble as possible and as hungry as possible. If you go about yourself, you’re in with a shout with Jim. If you don’t, you’re in with a lesser shot."
Dublin boss, Jim Gavin. Image: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne
During his time in charge of the team, Dublin have won ten trophies (Two All-Irelands, four League titles, three Leinster championships and an O'Byrne Cup), but does Dublin's perceived advantage every year detract from his achievements?
"Jim has certainly brought a lot to the table, he and his coaching staff and all the players. We've all got behind him
"I think everyone has contributed in some small way to the success and you could say in some small way everyone is in that environment. Maybe Jim isn't getting the credit I don’t know, I don’t think he wants the credit either even though he deserves it.
"People do look at finances and everything else quite quickly. We put in the same time and the same effort as other teams, so I think that should be looked at first before jumping to conclusions.
"He wants us to express our individuality and express our talents that got us onto the team in the first place. He doesn't want robots on the team.
"He sits back and makes the right calls for the team and certainly tries to do from the line and that’s his way of going about it. He wants us to be empowered on the field of play and make a decision because at the end of the day that’s who’s going to be on the front line; the players.
"That has served well enough in the past and I think it will in the future."
Many believe a change is as good as a rest, so you would expect to see a re-energised Dublin side take to Nowlan Park in three weeks time, a positive change in comparison to a half empty Croke Park.
"There will be a lot of attention on it. For the fans it’s something new but for us it’s not really. It’s a different ground and a surroundings from Croke Park but the process is still the same for us the gameplan remains the same, it’s the same dimensions of any pitch. So for everyone else it’ll be something new, but the buzz around it for us is that it’s work as usual."
So, as Dublin gear up for this year's campaign, it may be the expectation rather than the performances themselves that will weigh heaviest on the shoulders of these players.
Dublin stars Ali Twomey, Noelle Healy, David Treacy and Jonny Cooper helped Dublin GAA and sponsors AIG Insurance officially launch the new Dublin jersey today. Available at oneills.com and at sports outlets nationwide for €65, the jersey will be worn for the first time in a game by the Dublin minor hurlers on Saturday against Kilkenny.