Is Jonny Cooper the Sergio Ramos of the GAA?
Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton hadn’t even passed through the double sliding doors of the Mater Hospital when the ‘whataboutery’ began on Twitter on Sunday evening.
Less than an hour earlier the Dubs skipper was on the receiving end of a desperate challenge from James McGivney of Longford in the Leinster SFC semi-final, Cluxton was smashed while in mid-air having already punched clear the ball.
McGivney saw red for his actions and can have few complaints. The villain of the day was to be a man in sky blue though, the game hasn’t finished when this headline from a news outlet appeared in my timeline.
“TWITTER FURY: Twitter furious as Dublin ace Jonny Cooper escapes booking for heavy challenge on Longford’s Dessie Reynolds during Leinster semi-final”
The incident in question came as Longford’s Dessie Reynolds slipped past the first defender, Cooper darted across and his attempt to dispossess Reynolds of the ball with a near hand tackle was mistimed, he ended up smacking Reynolds in the face. Cooper wasn’t helped by the Longford player losing his balance which left his head lower than it otherwise would’ve been.
A free was given against the Dublin defender for the challenge but having already been booked under dubious circumstances he avoided any further sanction from match referee Maurice Deegan.
The incident was dealt with appropriately, but nevertheless Dublin detractors were at pains to point out that Longford had just had a man sent off, where’s Cooper’s red?
Another head punch made to look accidental by a Dublin player. They've made it an art form at this stage. Ramos would be proud of that one pic.twitter.com/bKUo2UWB8B— Michael Deane (@michael_deane) June 10, 2018
Maurice Deegan could've waved a second yellow, but that would’ve been a tough sanction for the incident in question. What is the defender to do? The attacker beats the first man, Cooper cuts across his path, his gaze is fixed on the ball, and when he snaps his right hand down Reynolds is in the process of tumbling under the pressure of three Dublin defenders. The ball is there to be won, he’s managed to graze it with his glove. There is contact with the face, but it is minimal and clearly inadvertent. The incident is mistimed not malicious. A free was the appropriate sanction, but 'twitter fury’ didn't stop at that.
Like flies to shite, twitter fury is closely followed by ‘hot takes’ online. The warmest of which seemed to criticise Cooper for wanting to win matches: “It's win at all costs for Jonny Cooper and the very minute he gets the scent of competition, the smell of the opposition, he turns into someone different. Winning every battle on the pitch is the only thing he cares about now and it doesn't bother him if he's going to have to stoop low in order to win.
The ball is there to be won, the defender tries to win it. I do appreciate the colourful prose but it is worth pointing out that Jonny Cooper is a defender not a werewolf. The Dubliner’s will to win may be frowned upon by the writer of the above lit take, but it is that attitude that has helped him win four All Irelands. The Dublin dressing room is full of those players, the ones that will take the risk in pursuit of the reward. They are the lads you hate to play against but would give anything to play with. That is why they have a good chance of becoming All Ireland champions again in 2018.