Sport Gaelic Football

Wednesday 24 January 2018

Alan Brogan: Blues brother at perfect pitch

After finally cracking the code for Sam last year, Alan Brogan is eager to show the hunger is still there

Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

PAT GILROY'S prophecy only came to light in the minutes after last year's All-Ireland final.

Bernard Brogan arrived to fulfil media duties and revealed something remarkable. The manager, he said, had foreseen it all.

"Last year, me and Pat had a chat when I won Player of the Year and he was saying: 'Congratulations, I'm delighted but we have to get back to square one' and he said, 'My dream is that we win an All-Ireland against Kerry next year and Alan is Player of the Year."

Alan was never in on the pact but at October's All Stars, the prophecy was fulfilled after 10 seasons that had seen his faith shaken.

"The young guys kind of made the season for us," Alan revealed. "A lot of them came in like Rory O'Carroll, Kevin McManamon and Cian O'Sullivan. They were guys who weren't carrying that baggage of previous years and hadn't been burned really bad.

"They were the guys that pulled the older guys through and gave us the belief that it could be done. The older lads, having been through what we have been through, could have been forgiven if they gave up."

An undercurrent of bold statements ran through Dublin's season. It would only be his second most famous speech of the year, but Bryan Cullen insisted Dublin's season was only starting as he collected the Leinster title -- the county's sixth in seven seasons.

A couple of weeks later, ahead of their quarter-final with Tyrone, Gilroy insisted his side's "need was greater" before delivering the performance of the championship, a game Brogan described as a "watershed" moment in his career.

culmination

"That Tyrone game was a huge game and was a watershed moment in not only that year but in my football career. That performance we put in that day was a culmination of seven or eight years of work. It doesn't come around too often," he said.

It felt like the bad days came too often. After the number of times the dark clouds gathered around Dublin on a sunny August afternoon in the Big Blue House, Brogan had made his peace with football, stating last year that if he never won an All-Ireland he would have no regrets and he still clings to that assertion. He has seen too many good men suffer in Croke Park and saw the likes of Ciaran Whelan retire without a Celtic Cross and Paul 'Pillar' Caffrey not lead Dublin into an All-Ireland final.

"I never thought about giving it up, though you would be very upset," he said. "The defeat against Mayo in 2006 is the one that will always stick with me. 'Pillar' was the manager and we had been through a lot so it would have been great for him. He was very popular among the players, and it would have been great for him to get to an All-Ireland final, we should have got him there. That's the one game I'd have back if I could."

Dublin have changed since then and so has Brogan. Gone are the days when he needed to shoot the lights out for the Dubs to win. He was the best of Dublin's options at the time but sniping inside, he says, was never his natural position.

"When I look now at say Bernard, there is no question that he is a better out-and-out scorer than me. We just didn't have someone like that to play that focal point in the full-forward line. While I probably did okay, I never felt I was an out-and-out top-class shooter, as opposed to forward. Look at guys like Bernard or Matty Forde, they are specialist scorers but I never felt that was my strength.

"If I looked at averages, I'd say that if I got four points in a match I was probably getting four out of seven shots, whereas the top-class shooters would get four points from five attempts. It probably served Dublin better with me outside and Bernard inside."

If 2011 bore fruit, then the seeds were sown in 2010 with a narrow defeat to eventual All-Ireland champions Cork in the semi-final. Brogan wouldn't call it destiny, but there was a scripted element to their progress under Gilroy.

"It gave me belief we could compete with the Corks, Kerrys and Tyrones at that stage in the championship. Because it's easy to compete in February or March but when it is August, that's when you need to show.

"It worked out perfect, in a way. You lose to Cork by a point in the semi-final and learn a lesson and then next year you win it. It was a fairytale. Obviously Pat would have liked to have won in 2010 but we knew we were more ready in 2011."

Last year he completed a medal collection that started with the Leinster minor title in 1999. Nicky Cleere captained that side but when Brogan was licking his wounds from the 'startled earwigs' game against Kerry in 2009, Nicky's life was changed forever after a hit-and-run incident that almost killed him.

His rehabilitation from severe head trauma and acute physical injuries has proved costly and the 'Nicky Cleere Trust' has been set up to aid his recovery, which to date, has been remarkable.

awareness

Ahead of tomorrow's clash with Louth, Brogan, along with Nicky's clubmate and Louth footballer Darren Clarke, are working to raise awareness for the Trust -- and at Dublin matches this weekend and throughout the summer there will be the chance to win a fully serviced 15-seater corporate box for the All-Ireland football and hurling finals for just €10 a ticket.

A long run in the championship for the hurlers and footballers will benefit the charity but the first indicator on whether Gilroy's side can reproduce last year's form will come this weekend.

"When you're b****xed in the last five minutes, that's when we'll know," said Brogan. "Will we make the extra run like we did to turn Kerry over for Kevin McManamon's goal? Will we have that same hunger to get back into a match when it looks like it is gone? Management have a job to put that hunger back into the team and the players have a job to get back to that place too.

"The question won't be answered until the game is in the melting pot."

For more information and to buy tickets online go to: www.nickycleeretrust.com

Irish Independent

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