Bernard Brogan: Still plenty of room for improvement
'It’s about putting your stake down for the year ahead'
As Bernard Brogan eases himself into a seat in a Croke Park suite, he doesn't exactly look like a man who had played an hour of Championship football three days earlier. But then again, why would he?
Everything had gone according to plan for Dublin against Longford at the same venue, and for Brogan in particular - he looked razor-sharp for the hour that he was on the pitch.
The 31-year old has had his injury problems but against such weak opponents as Longford, what can he take from his own performance and that of his team?
From the outside looking in, it would seem that the answer to the question would be somewhere between little and nothing, but Brogan doesn't see it that way.
Such is the quality within the Dublin squad, it's difficult to imagine a training game finishing anywhere near a 27-point margin.
"No, genuinely because when you're out there, you only learn from when you're in battle," Brogan responds when asked if his side tend to learn more from their own training sessions.
"You win some games and you lose some games but our training games are one of the areas that we're really strong on and we drive a lot of our competition through there. But you need to be out there in the competition, in front of the crowd, under pressure and going toe-to-toe.
"It looks easy from the stand when you're winning by 15 points but when you're out there you're still running as hard as you would, you're still going as hard, you're still trying to take on a man, so it's not easy out there.
"Okay, the scores might have gone over and we kicked well and our percentages were up last Sunday. . . we nearly took all our goal chances and the scoreline represents that but there's other days where you don't get those scores and you only learn from it out there.
"In training, it's easy to kick over six points. But when you go into Croke Park, no matter who you're playing, it's a hard thing to do so you need to be in competition," the two time All-Ireland winner adds.
With the apparent lack of competition for Dublin in the Leinster Championship, Brogan is in favour of structural changes, as long as it doesn't mean that his side play fewer games.
Gaelic Players' Association CEO Dessie Farrell suggested earlier this week that the Championship wasn't being "maximised to its potential" and Brogan agrees with the former Dubs star.
"I think there is a way because I think teams need more games," he says. "Some of the structures are a bit traditional with the GAA. But I definitely think there is room for a restructuring.
"Dessie makes no qualms that they're looking at ways and potential solutions - I haven't seen any of them.
"I heard that people were leaving after half-time of the game at the weekend. There are ways of making things more appealing.
"I know Dublin have been dominant in the last 10 years in Leinster but if you take that away from teams they can sometimes not have a goal.
"You look at someone like Longford, if the All-Ireland was the only goal for them and if they're honest and say 'we're going to struggle to get up to those heights', well the Leinster campaign is a cup final that they can go and potentially win.
"And if they get through that, then they can have a go at the All-Ireland. So if you take that away, the second tier - I don't know about the structures of getting it right, but I'm not sure about taking away the provincials in that process."
Brogan will leave any changes to the powers that be and, although last Sunday was a stroll in the park, he took plenty of positives from the win.
"For me personally, I wanted to get out there and prove to myself that the body was still right and I still had a lot to offer," he explains.
"The competition for places is going to be ripe again. When we go out there, we have to prove to the management that we are due our place and, if Jim Gavin doesn't see us going hard for the full 70 minutes, he's going to take us off and someone else is going to go in there.
"We went toe to-toe with them, we went hard for 70 minutes. Okay, the result was a bit one-sided at the end, but that's what we had to do.
"It's about putting your stake down for the year and producing the goods. The score was what it was, but there are aspects of that game that we can work on."
The task facing Dublin's next opponents - Laois or Kildare - looks more and more daunting.