'I don't have the same talent as some of my younger team-mates' - Bernard Brogan
Published 24/05/2016 | 02:30
Bernard Brogan may be the most recognised name in the Dublin attack but he is, by his own admission, well down the pecking order when it comes to natural talent.
Despite his accumulation of four All-Stars and a Footballer of the Year award in 2010 Brogan has claimed that the game doesn't come as easily to him as some of his younger team-mates and that his late development as an inter-county footballer is evidence of that.
Brogan feels he has always benefited from playing games on a regular basis but, at 32, he has had to tailor his programme accordingly to strike a delicate balancing act between what he needs and what his body can cope with.
"I'm not a Cormac Costello or a Ciaran Kilkenny that is just naturally gifted," he said.
"I just think I'm not as naturally talented. I think these guys are amazing footballers. Paul Mannion, too. They came up through the ranks and are a lot more mentally stronger and physically able for the senior set-up and were able to come into a team and just roll into it.
"I worked really hard to get to where I am with Dublin. I spent three years on the bench and made my debut at 24, had a cruciate injury at 20. I did it the hard way, I got to play with Dublin the long way around, so I appreciate that.
"I didn't play underage for Dublin, I didn't get picked. I played minor hurling. I played a little bit of 21s, then I got injured.
"So I didn't have that kind of upbringing and that high performance training set-up that these boys came through and it just meant that when they came up to senior level they were comfortable in the surroundings, used to training and used to that atmosphere."
Game-time for Brogan has been limited this season to just four starts and one appearance as a substitute in a nine-match League programme.
"I had a couple of knocks at the start of the League this year which kept me out of two games so I didn't get as much as I would have liked but just at the end I got a decent bit of time," he said.
"If I could play every game I would, but it's not feasible at 32. I did it a couple of years ago, I played every O'Byrne Cup game. I went into the League, played the Railway Cup, went into the League again, played 13 or 14 games on the trot and the body broke down. At some stage you have to just plan it and be a bit more smart about it."
Brogan has set his focus in the early part of 2016 on being sharper and more agile rather than being more muscular.
"What I've tried to do this year is get more in the legs," he explained. "I've slimmed down, I've eased off the weights a good bit and just tried to become more agile and sharper on my feet.
"When you look at Cormac Costello turning and the power of Eoghan O'Gara, you have to try and add something different or do something better than the other lads, otherwise you won't get the jersey. So something I really went after is the agility and trying to be sharp on the turn. That's what I've been working on over the winter."
He fills his off days with yoga and pilates sessions, the staple diet of many an inter-county footballer or hurler these days it seems, to help stave off the inevitable tightness in the legs that comes with 10 seasons as the coalface.
Next week's trip to Kilkenny for what will be Brogan's first ever Championship match outside Croke Park may be a novelty but not in any way a distraction for him.
"I'm happy to play anywhere, we'll play wherever we are put," he said. "It's just the way the GAA have set the fixtures since that game in Longford (in 2006). At least nobody can ever say 'the Dubs always play in Croker'.
"It's similar to the preparations we'd have for a League game. We play three or four games away in every League campaign and a lot of them would be Saturday night games. So it will probably be copy and paste of something we've done before."
Brogan gives credit to manager Jim Gavin for the policy of honesty in appraising where squad members are in relation to the team.
"He's very good with feedback. All players want to know where they are at. Any time anyone wants to ask them where they are, he is very honest," he said.
"That's where you want to be, you want to know what you need to do. If I wasn't playing I'd ask what do I need to do. You'll be told 'you need to work on your accuracy from play that it hasn't been as good as Paddy Andrews or Cormac Costello, get that right and you'll get your chance'."