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Engine that drives dubs

IT WAS a procession as inevitable as night following day that Brogan the elder would succeed Brogan the younger as Footballer of the Year.

But still, if you're Alan Brogan, and the wider Gaelic football pundit community have been falling over themselves tipping you for the gong, you're bound to be wary about being measured for the crown before the official coronation.

As it was, he had "a fair idea" but didn't truly believe until Michael Lyster called his name out in the Convention Centre in Dublin's docklands last Friday night.

"You never really think of yourself as being a Footballer of the Year," he told the Herald. "All Stars and those sorts of things are secondary to trying to win medals. But I never thought myself as a Footballer of the Year.

"From that point of view, it's quite humbling to come after the likes of Seán Cavanagh, Paul Galvin, Marc Ó Sé and Stephen O'Neill. To be considered in the same bracket as those players is quite humbling and, after 10 years playing with Dublin, it's a nice accolade to get."

Yet Brogan freely acknowledges that while Bernard was a certainty for last year's gong before the All-Ireland final was even played, his own coronation was a much more close-run affair.

Both Stephen Cluxton and Darran O'Sullivan had solid claims, and it was probably Brogan's consistent excellence which swayed the vote.

"To win it when you win the All-Ireland is particularly special," he says. "Bernard was very standout last year. This year was a year where it was probably a lot closer.

"But to win it the year that Dublin won the All-Ireland is pretty special alright."

How big an influence was Alan in Dublin's All-Ireland success? Arguably the biggest.

It's not just the big trophy sitting on his mantelpiece or the opinion of pundits that ranks him there either.

When Dublin narrowly beat Kildare in the Leinster semi-final, Kieran McGeeney spoke afterwards about how the Lilywhites had largely negated the influence of Brogan, given his scoring tally ran to just two points.

But that statement scarcely did justice to Brogan's contribution and ignored entirely the role he had played that day, one in which he would continue to thrive in all summer.



Statistics

Statistics show that between shooting, passing, blocking, tackling, catching or carrying the ball, Brogan usually totalled between 30 to 35 playing contributions per game.

By comparison, Dublin's corner-backs regularly amassed just five or six.

"That was my job," he acknowledges. "It was to become a playmaker out around the half-forward line and the midfield. And I suppose when you're doing that, you can get a bit more free and you're available to get on a lot of ball. I was also quite fit this year compared to other years, where I might have been carrying little knocks, so I could get up and down the field as often as I liked."

That role no doubt helped Brogan display his full array of talents, but his own individual excellence was plain to see just about every time he played for Dublin this year.

"I remember thinking coming into the Leinster championship," says team-mate and All-Ireland final saviour Kevin McManamon, "that he was playing so well that if Dublin do well this year, Alan's going to win Player of the Year."



Creativity

"What he brings to the team is unreal. His ball-carrying ability, his absolute creativity. I don't think we could have lost the league final had he played that day, and in the championship we would have been badly stuck without him."

The other great factor in Alan's pre-eminence in 2011 was his brother.

Bernard's sizzling 2010 meant opposition defences had a definitive starting point for where to begin the process of choking the Dublin attack.

As a consequence, he became a more rounded team player, but it also opened up space for Alan to remind everyone that the eldest Brogan hadn't merely handed over match-winning duties to his little brother.

"We knew Bernard was going to be marked a bit tighter so that would free up space for us," he acknowledges.

"This year, if I went out the pitch, I was left alone a lot of the time because guys didn't want to leave Bernard in there on his own with just one marker. So the guy that was supposed to be marking me always had one eye on Bernard to make sure he wasn't isolated one-on-one.

"That probably helped me and freed me up a bit more to get on the ball more than I had been doing.

"Certainly, the fact that Bernard was Player of the Year last year and had to be double-marked helped the rest of us a lot."

Brogan now turns his focus to club duties with the St Oliver Plunkett's/ Eoghan Ruadh who face Lucan Sarsfields in the semi-final of the Evening Herald Dublin SFC tomorrow in Parnell Park (3.0), and he admits he will have to forget about the All-Ireland as his club takes priority.

Still, he doesn't take much prompting to relive the moments after the whistle all over again.



Moments

"That half an hour after the match, if you could bottle that -- but that's what makes it so special. These moments only come around a couple of times in your life, if even that.

"So I really, really enjoyed it. I'm still enjoying it. It was probably worth more because you play for 10 years and then it happens," he adds.

"You just need to look at my old pal Jayo there; he would have loved to have been involved this year.

"He would even say himself that his All-Ireland (in 1995) -- while it didn't come easy -- he probably thought it would happen every year after that.

"The work he put in over the 12 or 13 years -- he was never fully rewarded for it and there are a couple of guys the same. People like Ciarán Whelan, Shane Ryan, Collie Moran -- fellas who gave Dublin great service over the years and finished without an All-Ireland medal.

"So I suppose I'm just very privileged," concluded the GAA/GPA Footballer of the Year.


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