Monday 19 February 2018

Comment: Bernard Brogan delivering off the pitch but faltering on it

Mayo’s Keeper David Clarke and Brendan Harrison in action with Dublins Bernard Brogan during the AllIreland Final
Mayo’s Keeper David Clarke and Brendan Harrison in action with Dublins Bernard Brogan during the AllIreland Final

Declan Bogue

THERE are three strands that will influence the All-Ireland football final replay; The Sidelines, The Psychological and The Football.

Let's start with The Sidelines, and by that we don't mean the respective management teams - we mean the little nixers and add-ons.

During the half-time break of the RTÉ broadcast of the All-Ireland final, there was some prime advertising space to be filled.

It was with some amusement to those in the Croke Park press room, that one of those slots featured the Dublin squad, clad in three-piece suits with a discreet sky blue check,  in their trade-off with 'suit partners' Benetti.

There was Bernard Brogan, giving a shoulder rub to Stephen Cluxton, all light-hearted and natural, looking every inch the champions.

In the second ad break, we met Berno again. This time, it was the convenience and fresh produce of Supervalu shops he was bigging up.

In the matchday programme he is advertising Volkswagen. And Benetti again, and Benetti on a separate page. Then he appears for the GAA Annual Health and Wellbeing Conference. The inside back cover? Berno anseo! Wearing a Supervalu red hoodie.

Outside as you approach Croke Park, there is a mean and moody depiction of Brogan, suitable frown attached, along the tagline 'King of the Hill', advertising King crisps.

And yet, at the business end of the game, Brogan was substituted, scoreless, for the last fifteen minutes. Taken off against Kerry in the semi-final, and Laois in the first round of Leinster.

He and a number of other Dublin players, will almost be thankful their three-point lead was reeled in by Mayo. It now gives them a chance to actually play some football, rather than the frantic panic of two Sundays ago.

To that end, the sidelines will have been pushed out of sight, but that still not might save Brogan for a demotion in favour of either Paddy Andrews or Paul Mannion when it comes to picking the starting team.

And the Sidelines feeds into the Psychological.

Does the lustre of being champions wear slightly thin? Is there a temptation to see your status in the game and decide to monetise it while you are playing, just as the lads up in the RTÉ studio are also doing?

Either way, the focus must be on the game, the prize, the art and science of winning.

Mayo have an edge here psychologically. While Dublin will have spent a while beating themselves up for not closing out the first game, and Diarmuid Connolly would have been discreetly assured of his ego getting in the way for attempting that audacious sideline at the end, Mayo are the team that refused to die.

Although Dublin were 2/7 favourites and the overwhelming tip of the assorted pundits, ex-players and journalists, they really are bulletproof in their belief that an All-Ireland is there for them. And when labels such as 'Celebrity Losers' are thrown at them, they get added satisfaction in proving the bombast wrong.

And now we come to the football. There are many, many questions to be answered on the day, but here are just some.

1) The Lee Keegan - Diarmuid Connolly war has gone on too long. Both men were lucky in that the first Mayo own goal happened at a time they both wrestled each other to the ground in the build-up. They could and should have both been on yellow cards from then.

Perhaps Maurice Deegan will be keen to lay down an early marker, which will not suit Mayo. Likewise, James McCarthy should last the whole game this time.

2) Weather. Darragh ÓSé made the excellent point after the first day that every ball on the big day comes straight out of the wrapper. Anyone who has ever played with a fresh ball on a wet day can vouch for how it behaves differently than a ball that has had a couple of outings.

Both attacks suffered from getting their footing wrong, and not being able to hold onto the ball in traffic. At this stage, Met Eireann are forecasting that not a drop of rain will fall over Dublin on Saturday.

3) Can Dublin play as bad?

4) Can Mayo produce the same again, which could be enough to tip the scales?

This punditry business makes mugs of us all. After all the statistics and patterns are analysed, and framed in flowery language, a side can put the ball into their own net twice and step on their own landmines.

Dublin to win again. With the utmost of hesitation.



NATURALLY, the first casualty of war is the truth.

The same goes for rows in the GAA, or the broader GAA family. In this instance, the row over the phantom point by Carla Rowe that was incorrectly waved wide in the 22nd minute, and cost Dublin the ladies' All-Ireland.

Let's call it as it is - that game was a draw. It is slightly disappointing that moments after the final whistle, when Cork manager Ephie Fitzgerald emphatically ruled out any prospect of a replay. And so Dublin ladies, having drew the All-Ireland final in all but the scoreboard, have to walk away from fair play, and later in the week read headlines suggesting they have to 'suck it up.'

It is a most unfair situation.

Understandably, their manager Gregory McGonigle was fuming. We don't like to highlight it, but this is the fifth time in six years he has been the losing manager on All-Ireland final day and there was a sense that this was the year, that Dublin had the players and there was a slight wobble in Cork under a new manager, playing a different brand of football.

McGonigle lashed out at the wrong target though, stating that Ladies' Gaelic football does not get enough respect, and that if it was an issue of cost that they didn't have the use of Hawkeye, it should have been thought of long ago.

The uncomfortable truth of course is that the Ladies Gaelic Football Association had already voted over their stance when it came to Hawkeye. They went against it on the grounds that if it wasn't going to be used in all games, then they didn't want it at all.

And that's the correct stance too. No game should be played under different rules than others in the same competition.

But in the end, the GAA got the lash for a perceived lack of respect, not only from a rightly-aggrieved manager. They won't hold the breath looking for apologies.

Online Editors

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