Dubs must make most of time 'at the top' - Alan Brogan
The All-Ireland football final on Sunday could be a swansong for Dublin veteran Alan Brogan, but when the inevitable questions arise about his playing future, he shrugs them off for another day.
Yes, he's 33. Yes, he has plenty of mileage on the clock, and yes, he waited until March before making a decision to give Dublin football another campaign in 2015.
But looking at his performance as an impact sub in the replayed All-Ireland semi-final against Mayo, it's plain that the eldest of the Brogan brothers got it right.
He was sent onto the pitch at the right time to offer some experience and leadership as the Dubs were battling to reel in Mayo, and played a key role in his side's breakthrough first goal.
This is how it evolved:
On 51 minutes Brogan replaced Paul Flynn.
On 53 minutes Patrick Durcan scored a point to put Mayo four ahead at 1-12 to 0-11.
On 55 minutes, Brogan had possession and was hoping for a shooting opportunity when he saw midfielder Brian Fenton steaming forward.
"Lucky I spotted his run early enough and was able to get it into his path, so it worked out well in the end," said Brogan.
Indeed it did. Fenton struck the ball low and hard but across the goal instead of straight at it.
No problem. Bernard Brogan was in position to slot the ball home.
The goal was the first of three the Dubs were to score in the closing stages as they powered ahead for the win.
That cameo leading up to the first green flag for Jim Gavin's team perfectly illustrated Alan Brogan's role in the squad.
Ideally, he would love to be a regular starter, but then, in an ideal world he would be 25 and at the peak of his powers as this Dublin set-up becomes a hugely dominant force in the game.
Instead, this is his 14th season of championship football, and Alan is one of the relatively few 33-year-olds operating at the top echelon of Gaelic football.
"It's something different for myself," he said.
"This year I've been coming in, but it's not a position I've been in before.
"In the four previous matches before the first Mayo game, when I was coming into the games, they were practically over - we were a good bit up.
"This was the first game where the subs have come in and they've really had to make a difference to get us back into a game. That's what Jim expects from a sub."
Back in January, he was asking questions of himself: did he have the desire and most of all, the time, to commit to the squad? He admits that retirement loomed large in his thinking.
"I probably was close enough to it," he said. "My wife was having a second child so that was a big factor in it, that brings its own pressures.
"Could I get back into the team then? I'd started every match last year but I didn't finish any match in the Championship, so it was the next step to be moved onto the bench and maybe feature for ten or 15 minutes.
"It is so competitive now, even in areas around recovery.
"I don't have as much free time as some of the fellas who are maybe in college, even though it's probably more important for a fella my age, but look, I made the decision to go back at the end of March.
"I'm glad I made it now, we're back in an All-Ireland final."
For too many years of Brogan's career, that phrase 'back in an All-Ireland final' did not apply to Dublin. The St Oliver Plunkett Eoghan Ruadh man had to wait until 2011 to grace Croke Park on the biggest football occasion of them all.
It was a fairytale ending as Dublin beat Kerry to secure their first Sam Maguire Cup since 1995.
Two years later Brogan's season was bedevilled by hamstring problems and he won his second medal as a panel member.
Sunday next offers another opportunity for Brogan and Dublin in their third final in five years and it is to be treasured - provided, of, course, they win.
"I've often said it to the guys, I was 10 years before I managed to even feature in a final," he said.
"It's important while we're at the top that we make the most of it, and obviously we're trying to put medals in the back pocket on Sunday."