Injury-ravaged year fails to crush Brogan's spirit
FOR so long, Alan Brogan was the face of Dublin football.
After a sensational debut season in 2002, the lines were quickly drawn -- if Dublin were to win, Brogan had to sprinkle his star dust.
For most of his career, Dublin have been on the outside looking in as Kerry and Tyrone carved up All-Irelands between them, often using the Dubs as fodder. And when they finally got over the line, it was fitting that Alan was front and centre.
That was 2011 when Brogan was the single most important cog in the machine that Pat Gilroy built. He was named Footballer of the Year that autumn, keeping the award in the Brogan household for a second year.
However, since this career high, the Oliver Plunkett's man has been locked in a constant battle with his body.
At 31 and after 12 seasons with the Dubs, wear and tear is taking its toll. Osteitis pubis (a troublesome condition that affects the area around pubic bone) set in to wreck his 2013 campaign.
September's All-Ireland final was the first time he saw his name in a match programme since the All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Mayo in 2012 when he limped off minutes after being introduced as a substitute. During the summer, Jim Gavin hinted on a couple of occasions that his return was imminent, but groin and hamstring problems halted his gallop.
"Ah look, I was hoping I might get a run," he says of September's final against Mayo. "I knew it would have been a long shot to go on, but I was prepared to go in if needed."
Dublin went on to win their second All-Ireland in three years with Brogan on the sidelines. That seemed unthinkable a few seasons ago -- particularly as he was thought to be the foil to get the best out of his brother, Bernard.
Alan's absence was put forward as a reason behind Bernard's early season travails, but he had no doubt his younger brother would come good.
"We can't expect Bernard to be shooting the lights out in every game," he argues. "Fellas are going to have bad games. In fairness to him, he just keeps going and doing the right things and I know how talented he is. If he has one bad game, he very rarely has a second one and even more rarely a third. It always comes right for him. Thankfully for us it did in the end."
The future looks bright for Dublin. Ciaran Kilkenny took Alan's role this year, acting as playmaker from centre- forward and they have struck up a friendship.
When he couldn't push for a starting spot, he acted as his mentor. He's not one for grandstanding, but claims Kilkenny can develop into one of the "best ever" to play with Dublin.
"How good he can become is sometimes dictated by how good the team is around him, but he has all the attributes to make him one of the best players that has ever played with Dublin," Brogan says.
"For himself and Jack (McCaffrey) to come in at 19 and play such an integral part in Dublin winning an All-Ireland... you sometimes take it for granted that they are only 19. They have huge futures."
Such a blessing shouldn't be interpreted as a willingness to step aside. Brogan decided to forego the team holiday to Cancun. He's fit enough to play with his club and he's missed enough football that even the senior 'B' championship in late November seemed more appealing than a week in Mexico.
Despite being off centre stage, his star still burns bright. He was on hand yesterday to launch a new website runlastman.com which allows clubs and charities to raise funds through 'last man standing' competitions. If all goes to plan, he'll be back with Dublin next year. "I just need to make sure that I am able for the demands and not have this craic of being able to train and then take the next session off," he explains.
"I am just going to take the next few weeks and make sure that I can train properly. But I think there's certainly a role for me still there, whether it's a starting position or coming in as a sub, it doesn't really mater."