Wednesday 21 February 2018

Bernard Brogan: 'I wouldn't be playing for Dublin if it wasn't for my brother'

Bernard and Alan Brogan with the Sam Maguire after Dublin’s victory over Kerry. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE
Bernard and Alan Brogan with the Sam Maguire after Dublin’s victory over Kerry. Picture credit: David Maher / SPORTSFILE

Michael Verney

A darling of the Hill has exited stage left. The retirement of one of the modern-day greats, loved and revered by Dublin players and supporters alike, has left a massive void in the capital. But no-one will feel his absence more than his little brother.

The curtain came down on Alan Brogan's 14-year Dublin career two days ago but for Bernard, it meant more than that. As well as childhood memories, they spent 11 years travelling to county training together.

On Monday night the dreaded phone call came. Bernard tried to persuade a change of mind but Alan would not be swayed. Bernard would not be sharing any more days in blue with the man he credits for his meteoric rise.

"I probably wouldn't be playing for Dublin if it wasn't for him," Bernard said as he called on political parties to commit to making two hours of PE mandatory in secondary schools at the annual Federation of Irish Sport review launch.

"I spent three years on the senior bench and there were many times I would have thrown my hat at it if I wasn't travelling to training with Alan.

"It was easy because of that - Alan was the hero of the hill, he was everything I wanted to be and he was there beside me. If he hadn't been there, I probably wouldn't have put in the commitment or the work to get up there beside him.

"He was my stepping-stone, the standard that I needed to match and that is what drove me on. If he wasn't there, I wouldn't have reached the levels I'm at today - that is 100pc fact. "

Bernard shared a glass of champagne with his big brother, who he lives across the road from, after the announcement but he didn't know whether to congratulate or commiserate.

Family and friends were in attendance and fittingly, so was Sam Maguire. It was the perfect finale to a remarkable family journey, with close relatives hailing the achievements of the three-time All-Star.

But Alan, 33, has always been one for Hollywood endings. Just 25 seconds after his late introduction in this year's final, he collected the ball deep in his own defence before galloping forward to crown his third All-Ireland medal with a fabulous left-footed point.

Bernard said: "Alan feels like he has given it everything and nobody can begrudge him the exit he made. Not everyone gets to write their fairytale. His is written in the stars. It is a nice way to go.

"There is always the want to come back and try it again, but you don't get to leave on such a positive note and he will always be remembered as a very special man. He probably would've liked more time in the final but he did a lot with the little time that he had."

The St Oliver Plunkett Eoghan Ruadh brothers have the unique distinction of being the only siblings to win Footballer of the Year in consecutive years, Bernard in 2010 and Alan in 2011, but it wasn't until his 10th season that the older Brogan reached the pinnacle.

Alan soldiered during Dublin's barren years, and the breakthrough under Pat Gilroy four years ago was undoubtedly one of his many career highlights.

Bernard, 31, believes Alan's consistency cements his place in the Dublin pantheon beside the likes of Jimmy Keaveney and Charlie Redmond, and said he will not be easily replaced despite the exceptional talent at Jim Gavin's disposal.

"If you look at his score ratio, all from play, his consistency is his key whether it was inside or out on the half-forward line, he said. "Even when he was out there he was doing a lot of defensive work that people wouldn't notice.

"Ciarán (Kilkenny) played centre-forward this year but he's a different type of player to Alan, he's full of energy and can kick brilliant scores, but Alan had guile and experience, he could create something out of nothing.

"There's no-one there at the minute that can get near it. Dermo (Connolly) has a bit of it in him but the all-round consistency that Alan has was a massive strength. He never shirked the big day and that's a hard thing to do too."

After stepping into the inter-county shadows, management would be a logical step for Alan Brogan with his opinion sought by managers and team-mates. And despite not being in the dressing room, his presence will still be felt.

"He'll be heavily involved with me talking to him throughout the next year," Bernard said. "And I'm sure a lot of the lads who would already touch base with him, the likes of Paddy Andrews and Paul Flynn, will still rely on his advice.

"I'm sure he'll have a lot of phone calls around championship time. He won't be there but he'll definitely be involved in what's happening."

Alan now embarks on a new path with wife Lydia and their two young children but for Bernard and the Dubs, the stark reality of a football life without Alan Brogan hits home.

"It's going to be a lonely journey and it's going to be different. His vision and his football experience is second to none and not having that around the place will definitely be a setback for the Dubs."

Irish Independent

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