| 8.1°C Dublin

Putting aside injustice key to Wee challenge

MORE than two years have passed since Dublin last met Louth in championship combat. The underdogs hung on valiantly for 35 minutes but then were overwhelmed in the second half by a blisteringly hot Brogan. Cue a 13-point hammering.

So, has anything changed over the intervening 25 months? Anything to suggest there won't be a similar outcome in Croke Park this Saturday?

Hmmm. Where do we start? How about the minor detail that, nine days ago, Louth 'defeated' a Meath team that had ripped Dublin's defence apart just two weeks earlier? (Any complaints to the effect that those Royal interlopers are official Leinster champions should be forwarded to the Portlaoise branch of Amnesty International.)

Or how about the radical team surgery undergone by Dublin and Louth since 2008, coupled with both counties' change of managerial direction too?

Another fair point, it's true, given that eight of Louth's Leinster final team started against Dublin two years ago while just six Sky Blue starters against Armagh last Saturday featured in Paul Caffrey's first XV against Louth in '08.

However, instead of comparative Leinster formguides or changing first team landscapes, we'll initially focus instead on the aforementioned Brogan.

The Plunkett's predator who went score-crazy in that '08 SFC encounter was not Bernard but Alan -- the then Dublin captain hit a stunning 1-7 from play -- so it's fair to surmise that the Louth defence will be on their guard against this familiar foe next Saturday.

Only this time, they might be even more perturbed by the form of his younger brother, who didn't play against Louth in '08 because of suspension but who currently can't stop scoring.

We were intrigued to hear TV3's post-match ruminations on Dublin/Armagh last Saturday evening, and specifically David Brady's dramatic revelation that Bernard Brogan had tallied 83pc of Dublin's scores since the start of January -- rising to 87.6pc after his latest nine-point haul.

Memo to the former Mayo midfielder: check your iPad! Bernard is good, but he's not that good.

Here is the slightly more prosaic reality: Dublin's predator-in-chief has tallied 2-23 (0-9f) out of an overall 3-64 tally in their four SFC games to date ... in percentage terms, that's 39.7pc.

His National League ratio was remarkably similar: 3-31 (0-16f) out of Dublin's overall 9-77 total, which translates into 38.5pc. Perhaps more remarkable is the fact that Bernard only started the last four of Dublin's seven NFL outings, coming off the bench for the first three rounds against Kerry, Derry and Mayo.

Earlier, over the course of Dublin's three-game O'Byrne Cup campaign, the younger Brogan tallied 1-8 from an overall 5-34 tally, equating to 22.4pc.

Ergo, in all competitive outings since the start of January, Bernard has scored 6-62 -- that equals 35.4pc of Dublin's running total of 17-175. Now, that still represents a phenomenal strike rate from Dublin's premier marksman. Or, if you're of the glass-half-empty persuasion, simply too high a burden to lump on one of your forwards. "What happens the day Bernard Brogan is well marked?" Peter Canavan asked on the same TV3 broadcast.


Clearly, Louth's chances of causing an upset this weekend will hinge heavily on their ability to stifle Bernard. Countering that, their traumatic '08 experience against Alan should act as a cautionary tale against the perils of devoting too much attention to one Brogan while neglecting the other.

More positively for Peter Fitzpatrick's men, the Louth defence was perceived as their Achilles heel before the Leinster final -- yet they managed to contain that supposedly prolific Royals to 1-12 (0-12 if you exclude that goal!) with Sheridan, Cian Ward and Shane O'Rourke all failing to score a point from play. Maybe, then, the Louth defence isn't as porous as the perception suggests. And maybe the squad's relative inexperience won't prove their undoing either: if they could handle the dizzy heights of a first Leinster final in 50 years, why should they be unnerved by the prospect of facing back door opposition at the same venue? After all, Pat Gilroy's Dublin are still finding themselves -- albeit improving, on the evidence of last Saturday -- while struggling to relocate all the sunshine supporters who have deserted them.

Suffice to say, Dublin may constitute a relatively tough draw for Louth but Cork would have been far more daunting. Moreover, they couldn't ask for a more inviting fixture to get the competitive juices flowing -- the Dubs in Croker, scene of the crime, so to speak.

For all that, it's conceivable that the biggest obstacle facing Louth this weekend comes not from the Dublin camp per se, or more specifically from Bernard Brogan, but from within their own heads.

Can they really get over the miscarriage of justice that was the Leinster final? Can they banish all thoughts of Meath, or at least suspend the painful memory for the coming week? They must do so, or else.

The early acceptance of last week's reality -- that no refixture would be forthcoming -- was indicative of a team determined to make a decent fist of the qualifiers. Louth have made all the right noises on that score, but whether they can actually summon up the same gung-ho spirit that illuminated their Leinster campaign remains open to question.

And if they don't? Take one of the Brogans to finish them off.

FóGRA: IN light of his latest caped crusader impersonation in a Saturday night downpour, might we suggest that the boys in Vodafone come up with a new once-off award this autumn -- a lifetime achievement All Star. The recipient? Tony Browne ... a man for all seasons, with freetaking nerves of steel, and a head made of tungsten, too!