Last week, one of Dublin GAA's most decorated players of the 21st century, Jonny Cooper, bade farewell to the intercounty scene ahead of the 2023 season.
Cooper, winner of seven All-Ireland titles with Dublin, as well as 10 Leinster championships and two All-Star awards, retires at the age of 33, and will be remembered as one of the greatest backs of his era.
Dublin manager Dessie Farrell will have to plan without the veteran for the 2023 campaign and, after the Dubs got the season underway with a round 1 victory over Wicklow in the O'Byrne Cup, their manager paid tribute to the departing Cooper.
Jonny Cooper: Dubs manager Dessie Farrell pays tribute to retiring legend
Despite the star-studded quality in Dublin's ranks, the loss of Jonny Cooper is no doubt a sad one for both the Dublin team, and the county's fans.
Still an essential part of Dublin's half-back line during their run to the 2022 semi-finals, Cooper won All-Ireland medals under both Jim Gavin and Dessie Farrell during his time as an intercounty player.
Na Fianna is the shared stomping ground at club level for Cooper and Farrell, making the connection between them all the more significant.
After Dublin got their 2023 campaign underway with a 2-15 to 0-09 victory over Wicklow in the O'Byrne Cup on Wednesday night, Farrell spoke to DubsTV.
"There isn't enough adjectives to describe his qualities. His leadership qualities have been hugely significant. We're sad to see him go, but what a career!"
Dessie Farrell has paid tribute to @jcoops, who announced his inter-county retirement at the weekend 💙#UpTheDubs pic.twitter.com/vaUuDTNlrV
— Dublin GAA (@DubGAAOfficial) January 5, 2023
He took a moment to pay tribute to the departing Cooper. He thanked him for his service on and off the pitch, and said that Cooper deserved immense credit for the role he played in the Dublin dominance of the 2010s.
I think it was a sad day for everyone, to get that news. Obviously, he's been such a servant to Dublin football.
There isn't enough adjectives to describe the qualities of the individual. He's been immense in every way - not just in terms of on the field and what he delivered, but around the group - his leadership qualities have been hugely significant. I've no doubt he's a major reason why Dublin have been successful over the years.
For all the Dublin fans, his teammates, and management, we're very, very sad to see him go.
But what a career and one that should be celebrated in the right way. We wish Jonny and Saoirse the very best in the next chapter of their lives.
In his retirement statement, Cooper said the time was right to "move on to the next chapter" before thanking the county's supporters and his former teammates, along with the Dublin backroom team. He said he had "never felt more alive" than he did playing in front of the Dublin fans.
He saved a special mention for his club, and for his family:
To my club Na Fianna that I am so proud to represent - managers, coaches, teammates, parents, friends and tireless volunteers that have taught me so much since I was 4. I look forward with great excitement to helping in whatever ways I can in what's to come next in our special community.
To my remarkable family and Saoirse who's relentless love, work ethic, support and encouragement is the main reason I got the opportunity in the first place and only reason I have lasted the few years I did.
Though Dessie Farrell will have to plan without Jonny Cooper for 2023, he does have an impressive might of returning talent in the form of Jack McCaffrey and Paul Mannion. McCaffrey last lined out for the Dubs in the 2019 final replay win against Kerry, while Mannion stepped back from the panel ahead of the restart in 2020.
It was an encouraging start to the year for Dublin, as an unfamiliar team took a decisive win in Baltinglass on Wednesday night. Only a handful of the team one would expect to start their first championship game this summer were involved, but they still marched to a 12-point victory against Wicklow.
After relegation in 2022, Dublin will get their League campaign underway in Division Two on January 28th at Croke Park against Kildare. Their first Leinster championship game will see them face either Wexford or Laois, away from the capital.
It will no doubt be strange to watch a Dublin team without Johnny Cooper in 2023, but he will be remembered fondly by all football fans from the county for years to come.