Brogan targets Leinster crown
It must be that time of the year again. The grass is cut, the evenings are lengthening and Alan Brogan is wearing a T-shirt with a corporate logo and summing up the Dubs' chances for the summer.
It's a road the 29-year-old has travelled well and he is in familiar territory as he looks forward to his 10th successive championship summer.
Almost a decade on from the summer of 2002, when he burst on to the scene under Tommy Lyons, the forward has won six Leinster titles but has no national senior crown to follow his U-21 medal in 2003. He watched from the stands as suspension robbed him of a chance to steady the ship against Cork, but despite that league final setback the Dubs seem more prepared than ever this season.
Brogan knows better than to make sweeping pre-championship predictions -- his focus is on the short term and with Laois next up on Sunday week, there is little point in looking past their old foes.
The conventional wisdom last season was that the Dubs were better off outside of Leinster, and their route through the qualifiers to All-Ireland semi-final agony seemed to back that up.
But Brogan reckons the province is as strong as ever and wants to win the title back.
"I think Leinster is stronger now than it has been for a number of years," he said at yesterday's launch of William Hill's new website.
"Laois are coming back to play, Meath and Kildare are serious threats now -- not only in Leinster, but in terms of an All-Ireland as well.
"I think there will be a couple of difficult games along the way and I think it might stand to us a little bit more than some of the Leinster championships did in the mid-2000s.
"Last year, we wanted to win the Leinster championship as well. Obviously, there is a second chance now and if you lose you have that chance, but I think every team goes into the championship wanting to win their provincial championship.
"We're going into the Leinster championship wanting to win it.
"Obviously, we wouldn't be happy with the way Meath beat us last year, so if we do come up against them again we'd certainly be looking to avenge it," added the Plunketts man.
First up, though, are Laois.
Justin McNulty is a man the Brogans will know well after he managed their local rivals St Brigid's. Alan reckons he is doing a good job in reviving Laois fortunes and says the days where the two teams traded blows in open contests are long gone.
"They kind of fell away for a couple of years, but, with Justin McNulty coming in, it's kind of reinvigorated them this year," he said.
"He managed St Brigid's for a while so the guys know what he can bring to the table. From his playing days with Armagh as well, he went through a lot as a player so he's been there and done it.
"In terms of quality of games, we played an open style, Laois played an open style. As the year went on and you came up against someone like Tyrone, it probably didn't serve you well at that stage.
"Both teams have had to change their style a bit. Justin McNulty has brought that bit of Armagh style of play in to Laois. We've had to change the way we play a little bit to stop ourselves shipping big scores, so I think it will be a different game against Laois than we saw a few years ago."
Alan may have had to cede some of his starring role to his younger brother, but he still remains protective of young Bernard.
After the league final collapse, the accusations that Dublin are over-reliant on the Footballer of the Year were flying, and Brogan admits they are not too wide of the mark. But he argues that there are few teams out there who can do without their marquee forwards.
"I don't know if we have an over-reliance, but there might be a certain reliance," he said.
"I think any top team has a certain amount of reliance on their top forward. If you look at Cork and take Daniel Goulding out of their forward line, take his frees away, you'd wonder where Cork would get all their scores.
"If you take the Gooch (Colm Cooper) out of the Kerry team, there's a certain amount that they would suffer and if you take the top forward out of any team, then they will struggle."