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Tribes must stop Brogan: Kernan

JOE Kernan doesn't usually mince his words when it comes to football, as his new Galway squad will no doubt testify.

Following a disastrous 10-point defeat to Kerry in Tuam two weeks back (compounded by the serious injury suffered by Michael Meehan) he held his players back for a reportedly frank exchange of views about their performance on the day and their league form in general.

Much of Armagh's unprecedented success between 2002 and 2007 was attributed to Kernan's rousing dressing room homilies and, unsurprisingly, his words rang sharply in the Tribesmen's ears all last week in the build-up to their most impressive and productive performance of the season against Tyrone last Sunday.


Tomorrow he brings Galway to Parnell Park and, typically, he shoots straight down the middle about the greatest threat to his side making it successive Division 1 wins against Dublin.

"Bernard Brogan is one of the best players in the country and has been these last two or three years," Kernan told the Herald.

"If he could stay injury-free, there's no reason why he can't be one of the best players in the country again this year.

"He's lethal. He has a good football brain. He has a good pair of hands and he can shoot with either foot. What more do you want?"

Kernan's praise is understandable given that Brogan is Dublin's top scorer in this year's National League with 3-12 (0-7f).

A personal haul made all the more impressive by virtue of the fact that he has only started two of Dublin's five outings to date.

Along with Kevin McManamon, Brogan has formed an effective two-man inside-forward line against Monaghan and Cork, though he and his St Jude's comrade have had to graft against packed opposition defenses on occasion and, according to Kernan, there's safety in numbers when faced with a threat like Brogan's.

"The thing is, in a man-to-man job, each man has to win his own individual battles," he explained.

"But sometimes we all need a bit of help to snuff somebody out. We will certainly be watching Bernard tightly and, hopefully, do a good job on him because if you don't, he'll punish you."

Kernan isn't reading too much into Dublin's defeat in Cork last week either. Just as his own team were written off as relegation fodder after the Kerry game before the inevitable backlash against Tyrone, Dublin, he maintained, haven't become a bad team on the back of a single performance.

"After the Kerry game, we were dead and gone too and then we went and put in a performance last Sunday. It's how you come out of these matches that sets the agenda. It's a character building process.

"The league is the league for trying players and staying in the division. Pat (Gilroy) is no different. Try as many players as possible. See which players can cope with these high-tempo matches."

Kernan is not, however, of a mind to diminish the significance of beating Tyrone. Shorn of the attack prowess of Michael Meehan, Seán Armstrong and the yet-to-return Pádhraic Joyce, his team still managed to score 1-15 against Mickey Harte's men, taking the two points and lifting some of the gloom which has shrouded the county in recent weeks.


"We were all very happy when the game was over last Sunday," he admitted. "I was happy for the players because they took a bit of unfair stick over these last few weeks.

"When new people come in, there's new ideas and new thoughts put in place. Every team and every squad of players takes a while to tune into that.

"The one thing we've said: positions are up for grabs and whoever performs gets them. In the coming weeks and months, when we go into the championship, it's what we do in the field during the week that will decide what happens at the weekend. What do they say? 'Work in progress'.

"There has been a steady progression. But at the end of the day -- me included -- you have to be realistic. There's a lot of work to be done. But once you have the boys working together like they did last weekend, the performances will improve."

The Crossmaglen man also sees parallels between the principles he has tried to implement in his short stint in Galway and Gilroy's new approach for 2010 with the Dubs.

"There is natural ability there," he maintained. "But the game has changed. The big thing in Gaelic football is when you lose the ball you have to fight to get it back."

Kernan walked the line in opposition to Dublin on just three occasions during his massively successful five-year term as Armagh manager.

Each time he emerged victorious but says the current boys in blue come from a noticeably different template than the 2002-3 team.

"I think they are more defence-minded than they were in the past," he noted.

"But that's just the way the game has gone. But that doesn't mean they can't be attack-minded as well when they do have the ball.

"I think the scores in the National League have proven that. While we all are defensive-minded when we lose it, we all are attack-minded when we have it.

"There's a different work ethic in this team as well. I think that's what Pat is looking for.

"A team that's going to work for each other, help each other, be fit and be strong. Certainly, so far, they're working hard on all these players," stressed the Galway boss.