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Brosnan drawing on Wexford Youths experience to make his point for Models

BEN Brosnan is a quiet young man, but he's no shrinking violet when it comes to leathering into a football from a place-kick on the GAA or soccer pitch.

And while the Wexford player is reckoned to be a bit of a rookie at senior championship level, the Bannow-Ballymitty club man has a fair bit of mileage under his belt as a footballer -- literally.

Back in 2007 when current TD Mick Wallace brought Wexford Youths into the League of Ireland First Division, Brosnan was a member of the first-team squad as they travelled the length and breadth of the country.

A right-sided midfielder -- "the way we played I was more of a right wing-back" -- Brosnan tracked up and down pitches around Ireland, and experienced miles and miles of road trips with the Youths.

It may have been the second tier of the national soccer league, but Brosnan (23) retains a healthy respect for those who ply their trade in the LOI. "People don't have much respect for the League of Ireland, but we trained four or five times a week and then we had to travel all over to play matches.

"Playing-wise, the standard is good. It was hard going and I was only in the First Division. I'd say the Premier Division is very good. You've seen a lot of lads, the likes of Shane Long and Kevin Doyle and others going over to England and doing well in the Premier League, so you'd have to respect the League of Ireland," he said.

Brosnan, however, didn't pursue the soccer dream for very long. Once Jason Ryan invited him to go for a trial with the Wexford footballers in 2008, it was no contest.

"I would always have preferred GAA first over the soccer and I always would have wanted to make the county football team, so I was delighted to get the call," he said.

Perhaps the Kerry blood in him also helped persuade Brosnan to choose GAA, as his father Dan hails from Knocknagoshel in the Kingdom.

"I would have spent plenty of time in Kerry, but I never played football there.

"I was at a wedding some time ago and someone told me my father may be a distant cousin of Eoin Brosnan, but I wouldn't know for sure," he added.

Once he focused on GAA, Brosnan's career with Wexford stuttered rather than soared. He didn't get many outings in 2008, then spent the summer of 2009 in Boston playing GAA. Then, last year, a combination of a month's suspension during the Allianz League and injury disrupted his season.

"I got sent off against Sligo and came back for the last game in the league, but it was hard to get into the team.

"Then, three weeks before we played Dublin, I got a hamstring injury and that affected me. I did come on against the Dubs last year, but that was a disappointing day for us," he said.

Technically, that was Brosnan's championship debut for Wexford, but on May 28 he made his first start in the team against Offaly.

A new campaign, pep in the step, and a revitalised Wexford have looked very impressive, bar a sluggish first half in the semi-final against Carlow.

To date Ryan's team have scored a total of 7-52 in the process of defeating Offaly, Westmeath and Carlow. Brosnan's share of that haul is 20 points, which includes ten from frees and four '45s.'

Ciaran Lyng, with 1-17, is Wexford's joint top scorer, but there's plenty more firepower around the team, particularly in the goalscoring department, as is evidenced by Redmond Barry with 2-3 and Shane Roche on 2-5.

Impressive indeed, but the Dubs in the Leinster final at Croke Park is quite a different challenge to anything Wexford have experienced up to now. Brosnan agrees with this view, but couldn't be happier to be in this situation, especially on the hallowed turf at Jones's Road in Dublin.

"There's a big difference playing in front of 700-800 people for Wexford Youths and playing in front of 70 or 80,000 at Croke Park for Wexford.

"It's probably one of the best stadiums in Europe, but it is fairly overwhelming when you're about to start a big match for the first time in it. Beforehand, I didn't know what to expect. People were saying different things. You wouldn't know what it's like until you experience it yourself, but I like it now. I could get used to playing there all right," he smiled.

Free-taking is one of his attributes and Brosnan is a traditional 'hit it off the ground' kicker.

"I find I'd get more distance and be a bit more accurate off the ground than taking frees out of my hands, but it's whatever suits you best," he said.

Dublin got the verdict last year, but Brosnan feels Wexford can put it up to them this time.

"We thought we had them beaten last year. In the first half we played really good stuff, we were seven points up or something at half-time.

"We got ahead, but we just didn't have the experience to put them away. I suppose it's part of a learning curve. This year in the championship, once we got ahead in matches, we have pushed on from there.

"We've another shot at the Dubs now so hopefully we can do it this time," added Brosnan.

Irish Independent