Jonny Cooper says it has felt "strange" not being involved with the Dublin footballers this year, though he has no regrets about his decision to retire from inter-county football. The seven-time All-Ireland winner announced his retirement on New Year's Eve.
Bar the opening 15 minutes of Dublin's National League victory against Kildare a fortnight ago, which was on television in the background during a family event, Cooper hasn't seen any of his former side in 2023.
"It will happen and I'm sure I'll get behind them in Croke Park, touch wood, in the next few months," Cooper said at a media day ahead of Wednesday's Electric Ireland Sigerson Cup Final between UL and UCC.
"A little bit different, a little bit strange. It's more just you're doing something for 11 years or whatever it might be, so there's certain norms there and certain connections - and look, my relationship and connection and friendship with all of them outlives wearing a blue jersey. It's not what I'm used to this time of the year."
The Na Fianna man says he thought about football "relentlessly" during his time as part of the Dublin panel. Every year that he returned - and he played 11 in all - Cooper committed to making a 15 per cent level of improvement.
"I certainly gave it what I had every year," he said.
"Getting to 2022 is one very small barometer, but kicking on 15 per cent more was always my internal commitment to get to the following year. So the same process happens last year, you sit down with the manager and have that conversation, 'Where can you get to? Does it work?'
"The clinical and the right answer for me was it doesn't and I can't stand behind something, given that every other year I would have done that, in terms of getting 15 per cent more. That's kind of where it's at, c'est la vie."
One of the key moments in Cooper's career, and life, came in September 2014 when he was the victim of an unprovoked attack following a night out in Dublin.
"The key learning was off the pitch in 2014 and the attack," he said.
"I was millimetres from it all being gone and finished. That was a big turning point for me. It was an experience that I tried to take forward, both on and off the pitch in 2015 and up until recently.
"I spoke to you guys a couple of times about my ego. I was out the night we lost to Donegal and I felt my preparation for the game was quite poor on reflection.
"I was playing centre back and it was one of the reasons why they scored [those goals]. You keep root-causing it; a lot of learnings from a preparation point of view.
"At that point I was being carried as opposed to showing, pointing and influencing the direction. On reflection, I would have put key performance and preparation blocks to build on from that moment."
Cooper is "very excited" about the future, and how he'll use his time now that he's outside the Dublin football bubble.
"[I've got] a couple of hours back that I haven't had for the last couple of years so I'm pouring that into professional life currently," he said.
"My passion is people, teams, organisation, behaviours, leadership, culture. Many people at the top of their game have been really, really good to me with time and learning over the last couple of years, sport and non-sporting, so currently trying to put a bit of that time into that space, to see and remain curious in terms of the learnings.
"Currently, I'm still playing so certainly that, but maybe into other walks of life - business, professional. I'm just really, really passionate about people and teams and performance. I'm just looking to pull on that thread a little bit more and see what unravels from it."
The 33-year-old is also "really looking forward" to the remainder of his club career with Na Fianna.
"I've never done a full pre-season with the club," he said.
"It's unbelievably exciting at the moment. The team doesn't realise the potential they have. You can argue that there is 30 per cent more in the team as a whole and I'm really looking forward to supporting that journey, challenging where I can. I will hope to bring as much experience, both from a professional point of view in terms of my day job, but also from the last 11 or so years with Dublin."