Brennan a blow for Dubs
Gavin says ankle has been slow to heal
WRITING in his newspaper column last month before the Leinster SFC semi-finals, Dara Ó Cinnéide considered Ger Brennan and the price of his loss to the Dublin team.
"For an apparently ordinary player, Brennan has an extraordinary knack of making the players around him look better," the former Kerry attacker wrote.
It's a description that probably encapsulates the general perception of Brennan, while just piercing the surface water of the reality.
Ó Cinnéide went on to point out how, without the St Vincent's man, Dublin were "missing his ability to bring the ball out of defence", but Brennan has always been a footballer for whom the various components of his on-field talents have fully never shown the totality of his influence.
"He's a great man to be around," says Paul Flynn, a player of comparable stature through these times of plenty for Dublin football.
"He's a leader and you know that from talking to him. Aside from what he has done on the field and what he has done over the last number of years, he has consistently played at the top level and a rock at centre-back and when you take a calibre player like that out of your team, you're going to miss him.
"We've been doing well with who has been playing in those positions in his place but the sooner we can get him back the better."
And the assertion that he makes his team-mates look good?
"Absolutely. He's the ultimate team player and all he wants is for the team to win - like we all do - but he really is the ultimate team player. He is missed definitely."
Leadership, as much as his ability to organise and lead a defence, is Brennan's selling point.
"He displays that around the camp on a daily basis when he's with us, on and off the field," explains Jim Gavin. "But the squad's strength is we have players that can play in multiple positions and we have plenty of cover in the centre half-back position.
"Notwithstanding losing a player of Ger's experience is a loss to the side. He's working very hard with the medical team to get back. It has been stop/start but it's slowly moving forward for him, which is good news."
The story of his injury has been muddled slightly but at present, it seems serious enough to question to availability in the medium term.
Having missed St Vincent's All-Ireland club semi-final win over Ballinderry in Newry with an ankle injury, Brennan returned to captain the Marino club to their second title in six years, a match in which he played the entire hour and looked for all the world like a man controlling a game from the safety of fourth gear.
Thereafter, he returned to playing in May, starting - but not finishing - Vincent's opening Dublin SFC game against St Pat's of Palmerstown, yet underwent an operation roughly a month ago and was, at the time of Gavin's pre Leinster final press conference yesterday morning, out of the country on what the Dublin manager described as a "break".
Gavin insisted Brennan would be available for Dublin's next match, whether they win on Sunday week or not, but whether by accident or design, his predictions on such matters haven't always been that particularly accurate.
"You see him doing a bit of the gym sessions," Flynn explained.
"And to see him there with the boot on for the time he had it on he is the hardest working fella you will see and no doubt he will be back over the next couple of weeks and will be back fit."
In his absence, Nicky Devereux has been the chief beneficiary.
He had arguably the best performance of his Dublin career at wing-back against Wexford last time out and whilst possessing more pace than a player of his physical stature should strictly be allowed, you couldn't argue that the All-Ireland champions' back six is stronger in Brennan's absence.
"We'd obviously know Nickey from the U21 campaigns," Gavin explained. "He's obviously been a big part of the squad for the last few years, both with myself and previous managements. He's been around the squad for a while and has shown form in training and on match day, so he's taken his chance.
"The way we set ourselves up. We expect our defenders to be flexible and be able to play in multiple positions. Full-back line, half-back line, on the wing, central positions…we're fortunate that way. It's one of the key strengths of our players.
"We don't play too much emphasis on a holding centre half-back, that traditional centre half-back."