Brogan desperate for Dubs forwards to reach top gear
THERE was a time, Bernard Brogan admits, when being substituted would have damaged him. But under Pat Gilroy, his perception of what makes him an asset to Dublin has altered greatly.
Gilroy removed his star forward from action against both Wexford and Laois in the championship this year, copper-fastening the manager's policy that everyone on the panel is equal and that even a Footballer of the Year isn't beyond substitution.
And it's something Brogan has learned to make peace with.
"Probably my mindset now is a lot stronger than it would have been a few years ago," said the adidas ambassador.
"A few years ago I focused my game on getting scores and having a good game; to me, getting six or seven or eight points was when I played well.
"Now there are loads of other things that I try to bring to my game. If I can set up a few scores, if I can make a few tackles -- I take a lot more positives out of different stuff like that. If it's right for the team for me to come off and let another lad come on... I know how strong the panel is.
"The (substitutions) were made at the right time. I'd been on and had a good few chances. We needed fresh legs, we needed intensity in the tackle, and the couple of times I came off, the likes of Ciaran Kilkenny and Eoghan O'Gara have come on and brought serious intensity to the tackle.
"It's a team game. It doesn't really matter what way it works as long as you win. I've had my own personal glories in the past and they are all well and good but having won last year, the joy that victory with a team brings, it just surpasses anything you can imagine."
Whether Dublin can repeat last year's triumph remains open to debate. Laois provided their sternest test this year, a team the Dubs were expected to beat comfortably. It's a trap, Brogan points out, that Dublin have fallen into before.
"Everyone you meet on the street was telling you that you are through to the semi-final and all you have to do is show up. That's hard, especially for young players. For Dublin in the past having gone through this hype they have landed on their a***s.
"That's the struggle as a player when you are going out against a team everyone is telling you that you are going to wipe the floor with, that's where you get caught on the bounce."
Brogan prefers the glass-half-full version of Dublin's season: "It's great to go through games knowing you haven't fired and knowing you have more to build on."
Mayo have their own issues, as only Sligo in the Connacht final offered worthwhile resistance. And while the absence of the injured Andy Moran is very significant, Mayo can draw confidence from their demolition job on Dublin in their refixed National League game.
"It probably showed a bit of mental weakness on our behalf," Brogan said. "The first day we got off to a good start, but the fog meant the game was called off. We obviously knew going out that they would be up for it as we put in a few good minutes but we still couldn't match their intensity in that game. That's what we will be looking to bring the next day -- huge intensity and physicality."
Despite that, Dublin remain the bookmakers' favourites for the showdown on Sunday week. Bernard's brother Alan is edging back towards fitness after a groin injury, but is by no means a certain starter and he's vital if Dublin's forwards are to operate at maximum capacity.
Brogan admits to struggling to find his best form, along with Diarmuid Connolly, who he described as the country's most dangerous forward when on form.
"When Diarmuid is on song he's the best footballer in the country," he said. "Like myself, the whole forward unit hasn't really clicked yet and hopefully the next day it will. If you can get Diarmuid right he's lethal and there's not a defender in Ireland that will be able to stop him.
"I think it just needs to click. It hasn't really yet. He's been unbelievable in training, his mindset is really good. In the past his mindset mightn't have been the best, but this year he has really stepped up. Okay, he hasn't shot the lights out yet, but he's training so well and we're hoping that he'll come good."
And if it all comes together, Dublin are expected to be in the All-Ireland final and Brogan, you suspect, will be to the fore.
"The likes of the Donegal and Kerry games, where we stuck to our game plan and we knew that if we stayed with it we'd eventually get the victory, stood to us last year," he said. "The last few games haven't been as pretty and as fluent as some of the games last year, but we are still sticking to the game plan and sticking to what we know has worked for us and has gotten us this far. It mightn't have been pretty, but no one cares about pretty if you are standing on the Croke Park steps in September."