Brosnan raring to lead by example on second coming
At some stage this evening in Killarney, Eoin Brosnan may get an opportunity to turn back the clock and become Kerry captain again.
Back on the bench after recovering from the thigh injury he picked up in the last league game against Tyrone in Omagh, Brosnan has been held in reserve in the hope that he may see some action to get the blood coursing once again.
Courtesy of Dr Crokes' continued dominance of Kerry football and Colm Cooper's reluctance for the armband for a third successive year, Brosnan will find himself back in the leadership role 12 years on from his previous tour of duty. This time he is obviously more equipped and, in the eyes of some who bristled at his elevation at that time, more acceptable for the role that remains the preserve of the county champions.
In 2001, Brosnan was in his debut season. It was the year before Cooper's arrival and Crokes had the shout on the captaincy. For most of the season, it was left with Seamus Moynihan – captain and pillar of the 2000 All-Ireland winning team – even for the All-Ireland quarter-finals when Brosnan started both days against Dublin.
But, for the All-Ireland semi-final against Meath, Crokes exercised their right to make a call on the captain and Moynihan was displaced by the then 20-year-old with just a handful of championship games behind him.
Brosnan was left in an unenviable situation. Moynihan's status as a Kerry great was already assured, Brosnan himself was only starting out and the displacement of such an iconic figure created unease in the county in the build-up to the game.
Crokes, of course, had the right to make that choice but Brosnan, with the benefit of hindsight and a great Kerry career behind him, can view it differently now.
"Being realistic, it was too early taking on the role of captain," he reflected. "The problem then was the club hadn't had a captain in decades really. It was an honour for the club and that's why I was the captain on the day."
The defeat to Meath is considered one of the worst – if not the worst – performance by a Kerry team at Croke Park. For months afterwards Brosnan felt it but could never, even to this day, attribute it to any issue over captaincy.
"I don't think it was an issue. But it was a difficult time for a number of months afterwards. That was Kerry's worst result going back 30 or 40 years. We were hammered in an All-Ireland semi-final, there was no shying away from that. The county – nobody involved in football – had a pleasant couple of months after that."
This time around there is no issue. Brosnan has long since commanded high regard in Kerry and his decision to come out of retirement more than two years ago, after two seasons away from it, has given him a new lease of life in the half-back line.
"In 2006 to 2008 I just wasn't enjoying my football as a forward," he said. "I don't know if it was the role I was playing, I just didn't feel the natural forward's instinct was there any more. It became a slog and when it becomes that it is better to step away."
Even three goals against Longford in the qualifier game in Killarney in 2006 that marked Kieran Donaghy's start as a full-forward couldn't mask it.
"There are days like that. But I wasn't enjoying it to the extent that I would have been in '01 and '05. It wasn't an overnight thing, the enjoyment just waned gradually."
On the back of a towering display in the 2010 Munster final against Nemo Rangers that Dr Crokes lost, Jack O'Connor managed to coax him around, the pre-condition being that his days as a forward were over. "Since I've come back, it's more as a defensively minded player and I'm enjoying that far more."
For the first time in his career Brosnan's had real struggles with injury. A calf injury sustained against Donegal in last year's All-Ireland quarter-final – aggravated on holiday in Spain and then compounded once again in last year's Munster club final – bothered him into the early part of this year.
He had just recovered when he tore a thigh muscle early on against Tyrone.
"I got through the league. We were training in Portugal the week before, 10 or 11 sessions over the four or five days. The body was in good shape.
"We did a loosener-up in Louth on the way up to Tyrone and I remember saying to Marc O Se I felt my body was as good as it was this time last year.
"I've been lucky. You see Colm O'Neill doing a third cruciate, David Moran doing two, and then came back and had a shoulder and an eye injury... I've had nothing like that, thankfully."
He's lost four All-Ireland finals, two he can accept (2005 and 2008 against Tyrone), two more that he "regrets" (2002 and 2011) but the drive in him for one more remains.
Some are surprised that he committed to another year but the enjoyment remains high as he catches up on lost time and a much deserved stint as captain.