Sunday 25 August 2019

Bernard Brogan delivers the news all Dublin fans wanted to hear

'I'd have taken your hand off to walk away with five All-Irelands but I still have ambition,' insists 34-year-old Dublin forward

Bernard Brogan of Dublin celebrates 2017 All Ireland win
Bernard Brogan of Dublin celebrates 2017 All Ireland win
Bernard Brogan has ambitions to lift the Sam Maguire Cup for a sixth time. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

It wasn't a straightforward decision. Bernard Brogan admits to looking in from the bench in frustration at times during the summer and wondering if, for him, the game was up.

It would have been easy to walk away in September. Picking up a fifth All-Ireland medal - an achievement that puts Brogan and Co in a very exclusive group - would have been a nice note to go out on.

After a summer of limited exposure, he could have walked away and pursued other things. But once Jim Gavin made it clear that he wanted him around, the 34-year-old was happy to commit once more.

"Throughout the summer I wasn't sure what I'd do," reflected Brogan at the Fexco Asian Games in Bangkok.

"I had some good form and bad form and was getting only so much game-time. So I was thinking, 'will I give it another go or is my time gone?' and I was rolling that around in my head.

"I sat down with Jim and said what I felt and where I thought I was at. After I had my say, Jim indicated that he wanted me around and wanted me back and that there was a role for me.

Bernard Brogan during his visit to Bangkok for the Fexco Asian Games. Photo: Eoin Murphy
Bernard Brogan during his visit to Bangkok for the Fexco Asian Games. Photo: Eoin Murphy

"I have a couple of injuries and, if I get them right, there was no reason not to go again because Jim indicated he still sees a role for me."

What that role will be remains to be seen. Since being dropped for last year's All-Ireland final replay, Brogan has seen his minutes limited.

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Last week saw Denis Bastick, a player he describes as a "warrior", hang up his boots. It was a reminder that the clock is ticking.

Still, Brogan harbours ambitions of playing in Dublin matches from the start. If the end is coming, he's in no hurry to usher it in.

"I want to attack the year from the start," the 2010 Footballer of the Year said.

"I missed a bit last year because I've always played better when I've had momentum and played through the league.

"In 2010, it was week after week with games in the back-door. I'm a confidence player and need minutes on the pitch and to be getting scores.

"The more you play the better you get. If the body is right I can put myself in the best position to play from the start.

That gives you confidence to try and put a stake in the ground whether that be starting matches or coming off the bench. But at least I know I'll have given it my best shot."

If he is to be an impact sub, Brogan reckons there's a new challenge in that.

Dublin's bench has rescued them several times over this golden period and Brogan knows he has work to do if he is to add to that.

"It's something different in the head. When you are playing at the end of the game you have to be clued in to make an impact.

"It's about doing the simple things right and being an option and getting on the ball.

"There's loads you can do in those few minutes but it is different. When you are starting a game you have time to get into it and take your time but in 10 minutes… sometimes you are trying too hard in that short window.

"That's where I have a bit of work to do on the mindset of it. But I understand it's a role and it's a valuable one.

"Our bench has won us loads of games and that's a mindset.

"Kevin McManamon can turn that on when it counts and that's what I need to get into my head.

"If it's 10 minutes, you are not trying to change the world but you just need to understand what it is."

Dublin's quiet evolution continues. Even with once-in-a-generation players like Brogan in the autumn of their careers, they have kept winning and raising the bar. Brian Fenton scarcely knows what being in a losing Dublin dressing-room is like.

Con O'Callaghan tasted more success in 2017 than most will have in a career but there is enough wisdom around to remind those youngsters that the bad times can roll just as easily as the good.

"We're quick to rein them in and talk about where we have been and losses we have had.

"'Clucko' has been there since 2001 and he regularly talks about it. If anyone thinks this is easy or this is the norm, we have lads who are very quick to remind them.

"We have lads like Bryan Cullen, Jayo, Jim who have had success but for the majority of their careers didn't have success, so we're always driving that message and emphasising those values.

"If you take your eye off it you will be on the losing side. The older guys would talk about it, about not taking it for granted.

"We've had success and it's great but if you take your eye off it you'll lose.

"We have had it before, success in Leinster and you're going into games thinking we are the bees knees and we landed on our ass - we don't want that for them."

So, Brogan is going to roll the dice again and see where it brings him. Once there's still life in the legs, he'll keep going.

"What we are trying to do is capitalise on what we have and we've done very well on that.

"I'd have taken your hand off to walk away with five All-Irelands but there's still ambition in the team. And I still have ambition.

"Medals are for looking back on, When you can still play you just want to play and win and the lads are hungry and they work hard.

"At the end of it when you finish you say, 'Jesus we did well' but when you're playing you just stay in the now."

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