Keeping it in the Brogan family
Published 13/02/2014 | 12:42
Bernard Brogan talks about the highs and lows of life as an All-Ireland winning Dublin GAA star and the pressures involved in living up to such a rich family legacy
'MAM and Dad were always at the side of the pitch, and it was something you'd notice as there were only ever about three sets of parents there.
"Some people use football as a babysitting service, sending their child there on a Saturday morning and enjoying the break until they got home in the afternoon, but the people who progress to the heights are usually the ones who have their parents there, supporting them.
"I'd be a firm believer in parents getting behind their children and going out to watch them play."
I'm at the Foundry at Google Ireland, having tea with Dublin GAA star, Bernard Brogan, who is helping to launch the Irish leg of the Wings for Life World Run.
Five thousand Irish runners will take part in the Irish leg of the race around the Ring of Kerry in May, joining thousands of runners from all around the world at the very same time, and all proceeds will go to spinal cord research, as the event is sponsored by Red Bull.
"I try and keep fit when I'm not training and get involved in runs," he says. "I am more of a short sprinter though, as any of the lads will tell you, but it sounds great fun as once the 'chase car' catches up with you on the run, your race is over."
The name Brogan has become synonymous with Dublin GAA, as Bernard's dad, Bernard senior, is a former three-time All-Ireland winner, while his uncle Jim won two championships.
His older brother Alan and younger brother Paul have also played for the Dubs, as has his cousin and business partner, James Brogan.
It was lucky therefore that Bernard's mother Maria, a Kerrywoman, is a "mad sports fan", given the amount of time she has spent freezing on the sidelines.
Bernard grew up in Castleknock and attended St Declan's College on the Navan Road. As well as football, he was involved in soccer, swimming, and table tennis -- anything to get a class off, he laughs.
Mind you, he says that he was reasonably smart at school, and went on to study finance at Maynooth University on a GAA scholarship. His brother Alan had done the same course, so he passed on his notes, which was handy.
So did he get on well with his brothers growing up? "We never really fought," he says. "We had the odd little spat, but we never beat the heads off one another like lots of other brothers."
Bernard was pretty well-behaved growing up as he had some serious goals in mind. He wanted to play football, and also had an entrepreneurial streak and dreamed of opening his own business.
After getting his degree in finance, he completed a master's in business management at DCU, and went to train as an accountant.
He was also playing football at that time with St Oliver Plunkett's and got on the Dublin team at the age of 21.
While that sounds like it was all very smooth, Bernard is the first to admit he had a challenging time initially, as while he made the team at 21, he spent three years on the bench.
"Alan came in at 18 and played with the minors and kind of played on, whereas I had a bumpy road," he admits. "I had a cruciate ligament injury when I was 20, and I had to prove to the managers that I was good enough to play, but it probably helped me in the long run."
Given the family he grew up in, was there a bit of pressure to carry on the family name and his father's legacy?
"In fairness, Alan took a lot of the pressure off, as he was playing for Dublin for five or six years before me and had done really well," he says.
"My challenge was making my own name and identity, and it took me a while to show people what I could do on the pitch.
"It was tough at times, and there was a lot of pressure to step up to the standard that Alan had set, but I've been lucky enough to have had a few good years with Dublin.
"Myself, Alan and Paul are all different types of players, so we all have our own identities," added Bernard.
Speaking of Paul, he has been a bit unlucky with injuries recently, hasn't he?
"Yes, he was doing well with Dublin, but he has damaged his cruciate ligament in his knee three times.
"It's a tough one because you're out for a year each time. Paul is now 27 so he still has a bit of time. Hopefully, he can get the knee right and play for the Dubs again."
Sport is a massive commitment, as it can take anywhere up to 40 hours per week sometimes between training and travelling. Despite the huge commitment involved, Bernard managed to train as an accountant with Dublin firm, RSM Farrell Grant Sparks, whom he said were wonderful for accommodating him around training and helping him towards his qualifications.
Then around 14 months ago, Bernard set up Legacy Sports and Entertainment Consultants, with his cousin James Brogan, a solicitor, and tax consultant David Clancy.
The company advises up-and-coming sports stars, as well as looking after sports marketing and corporate investment. It's going really well he says, and they are working with clients like AIG and Red Bull.
It is a perfect fit, as he learned a lot from working as a sports ambassador in the past, and feels their vision has really settled now.
After a few difficult years, Dublin won the All-Ireland in 2011 and 2013. Winning in 2011 was a bit of a fairytale, and the jubilant team brought the Sam Maguire cup around to over 500 schools, hospitals and nursing homes.
"It was crazy as everyone wanted to meet us and we were out partying, but by 2013, we were all more composed." he says. "We had a couple of bad beatings in 2008/2009 and were very unlucky against Cork in 2010.
"The next year we went all the way, so it was a bit of an amazing rollercoaster ride."
Bernard admits to being hard on himself, because he's a free taker and a forward, so there is a lot of responsibility on him to make the most of whatever chances he gets, whether setting up scores or anything else.
He was disappointed with himself in the 2012 semi-final, when Dublin was defeated by Mayo, and he had one of the last kicks of the game.
"It was a one-on-one with Davy Clarke, who I used to play with in Maynooth," he says.
"I used to practise kicking down in the back fields with him at college, and I obviously did it a bit too much as he knew where I was going with the ball and he ended up saving it and putting us out.
"That was my toughest time in a Dublin jersey, and it ran through my head thousands of times during the following year."
Luckily, 2013 ended brilliantly, with Bernard scoring two goals in the All-Ireland final against Mayo, before picking up the player of the match award and an All-Star.
So with all the weight of expectation on him does he get nervous or is he able to enjoy the experience? He is mainly able to block it out and enjoy himself, he says, as when he's enjoying himself, he plays well.
"I always think it's amazing to be there in front of the crowd, and knowing that I am where I wanted to be when I was a kid," he says.
"I'd be hard on myself but I think that's important as a Dublin forward, as the team and the fans look to you to lead by example. The stakes are so high when you are in an All-Ireland final or semi-final, with 80,000 people present and a million and a half people watching at home. It's a nervy place, but if you have done the preparations, it's a lot easier."
On the personal side, Bernard has been dating PR consultant, Keira Doyle, for the past year. "She's a lovely girl and we're very happy," he says. "Things are going very well."
So does he envisage having a few children in the future? After all, between the extended Brogan family, they could practically produce a whole squad of mini footballers.
"That's the plan," he laughs. "If I could have a few north Dublin footballers, I'd be delighted. Our club team, Plunkett's, are looking for a few new athletes, so the brothers and cousins and I will have to put our heads together and try to build a team.
"Our dad has three All-Ireland medals and Alan and I have two, so we'd love to get the third and really take him on!"
For further information on the Wings for Life World Run on May 4, sponsored by Red Bull, please visit www.wingsforlifeworldrun.com