Alan Brogan - Dublin's older players have big choices to make during winter
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WHAT we saw from Dublin late in last Sunday’s All-Ireland final was an exhibition in game-management.
It wouldn’t be strange in practice games these days for teams to play 17 against 15 so that there are a greater number of bodies to break through, or more men to chase them down when they try and hold possession late on.
And it’s similar to winding down a clock.
Under Pat Gilroy, we tried to identify situations in games when we wanted to slow it down, such as when a team was getting a run of scores on us or when the opposition needed the sting taken out of them for some reason.
You’ll regularly see players going down and seeking medical attention after the opposition put a couple of scores on the trot.
It’s just to disrupt the flow of the opposition.
And the way Dublin saw it out on Sunday, was very composed.
I’m sure they didn’t anticipate there would be so much injury-time added to the six minutes that was allocated.
This is why the ball went all the way back to Stephen Cluxton who, at one stage, came under a bit of pressure while in possession.
The risks were sky high but Dublin’s ball-handling was superb and they made Mayo chase the ball for that last 90 seconds as fans’ hearts pounded for relief.
And the two sendings off probably gave a bit more space for Dublin to manipulate and move into but Stephen came close to being tackled in that split second.
But ultimately, Dublin were so composed, I don’t think they were in any real danger of being turned over.
Compare that Mayo’s last kick-out.
David Clarke was under pressure and lost his cool a bit and put it out over the sideline in what was probably his most important kick of the year.
With that, their chance was gone.
When the celebrations die down now and players go back to their clubs, the focus will turn to which Dublin players will stay on and who might decide enough is enough.
That’s inevitable in a season when more of the older lads have faded from view a bit.
It’s difficult for some of them.
Kevin McManamon came in and made a huge difference.
Bernard won the first ball that came into him and set up a score but he only got on with six minutes left so for a player like him who has played so much and been such an integral part of it, it’s tough.
You’re on the sideline, watching the game ebb and flow and you just want to get in.
And it’s difficult to make an impact on a game like that when you’re coming from the bench.
There’s such a high level of intensity, you can almost feel like someone accidentally wandering into a hurricane.
Michael Darragh Macauley didn’t get on. Neither did Darren Daly, who had played some part of most of Dublin’s matches this summer.
So they’ll be hugely disappointed.
When you think you should be playing and you’re putting all this time and effort in, you want to get a run in the match at the end of it but also, you have to remember it’s about the team winning.
So every individual has to look at their own situation at the end of the season.
They have to take into account their work life and their family life and decide whether they’re getting back enough of what they’re putting in.
For me, when it came to the end of my career, I was happy to do a year coming off the bench and making an impact but any more than that wasn’t really worth it, I felt.
So I made the call to step away.
No-one is bigger than the jersey. You’re only passing through and keeping the jersey warm for the next generation.
So some of those lads will have a conversation with Jim in the off-season.
Jim will be honest with guys about where they are in the scheme of things and they will be honest back to him about what they think.
Obviously, he’ll want everyone to commit again to give him the greatest number of options.
When I retired, Jim said to me: ‘Do you want to have a night or two to think about it?’ but I had already made up my mind at that stage.
It’s a tough job for Jim.
The fact that he didn’t start Diarmuid Connolly meant there was always likely to be one of Bernard, Michael Darragh or Paul Flynn who didn’t play a part and as it went, it was Macauley.
And while I’m sure he’s delighted Dublin have won another All-Ireland, he’s not human if there’s isn’t some part of him that resents not getting on.
But I wouldn’t have any fears he won’t be back. He’s young enough and good enough to get back into the team.
Denis Bastick is 37 next year so he might decide he’s done enough and although Stephen Cluxton is 35, he’s still the best goalkeeper in the country.
Bernard got himself into great nick this year, the best he’s been in a long time.
He put everything he could into it and it’s unlikely now he will get back into the starting team, so he’ll have to decide whether another year coming off the bench is worth it for him. It’s a fair decision to have to make because this is an incredible team to just walk away from.