Monday 19 February 2018

Off-colour Brogan gives Dubs the blues

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Is Bernard Brogan's form the ingredient for a small crisis, as Dublin reach what they hope is the mid point of their season, three games in?

Everything being relative, Brogan had a poor day in Sunday's Leinster final yet still finished as Dublin's third top scorer with two points from play and a further point from a free.

When he dashed out in front of his marker Graeme Molloy and scooped over the first point of the game after only 22 seconds as he moved away from the goals towards the Cusack Stand side, it looked like a portent for a difficult day for the Wexford defence.

But as subsequent shots dropped short and drifted wide and Molloy applied himself to the task with greater determination, Brogan began to show what Pat Gilroy would later describe as a "human" side to his game.

Nine shots later and Gilroy had seen enough from his 'end product' man, whipping him off when his team were just four points clear as that barrage of wides and undercooked shots threatened to instill more hope in Wexford.

Was Gilroy right to make such a radical play as to remove the Footballer of the Year from the action when he did?

Would Gilroy have taken Brogan off if this was a knock-out match with no safety net beneath them? Hardly.

If it was a Leinster final against Kildare or Meath, would the No 15 have appeared on the digital board? Maybe not.

There was much to consider. If Wexford had closed the gap and a late free had presented itself -- just as it did against Kildare -- who else would Dublin want standing over it? That presented a risk, for sure.

But the circumstances were right for Gilroy to make such a decisive statement. It wasn't punishment for errant shooting or anything of the sort. After all, Brogan had got himself into positions where he could have helped himself to a potential 10 points from play.

More likely, it was a reminder of the evident philosophy that nobody is bigger than the team -- remember how he kept Brogan on the bench for the first three league games of 2010 and the results that such a period in exile would later produce.

Whatever else Brogan's error-prone shooting did, it confirmed the absolute obvious -- that Dublin are an ordinary team without him firing on all cylinders, as he did for much of last season. He is the difference between Dublin being in that exclusive group of three at the very top or being at the back of the chasing pack.

His current form looks like no more than a temporary blip. A point from play (0-6 in total) against Kildare on top of 0-5 (3f) are moderate returns for a player through which just about everything goes.

But in creating the chances, Brogan is showing that his awareness and understanding of what is going on around him is still razor sharp and the accuracy that marked him out last year will surely come.

It's worth remembering that he also chalked up seven wides against Wexford in last year's championship on an afternoon where he helped himself to 2-4.

What isn't so certain are the other components of the team. Brogan's two partners in the full-forward line, Eoghan O'Gara and Dermot Connolly, were also whipped off before him, while one of their replacements, Mossie Quinn, also had to make way.

Those elements collectively amount to much more concern than their top marksman having an issue with his radar.

Connolly may have been a little unfortunate to be removed when he was, as his game looks better served by positioning closer to goals. But that is also the preserve of O'Gara who, for all his honesty and combative strength, still hasn't tuned in to doing the right thing at the right time at this level.

Dublin look like a team that are conditioned and prepared to meet the better teams head on but their game plan and lay-out doesn't allow them to deal easily with the teams they are expected to beat.

Irish Independent

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