Ger Brennan vows Dubs won’t make same mistake as Liverpool
We can’t afford to get carried away, insists St Vincent’s star
All-Ireland winning centre-back Ger Brennan awaits the verdict of manager Jim Gavin to discover if he will make a return to the Dublin team for Sunday’s Leinster quarter-final against Laois.
Brennan missed the league as he nursed a stomach injury which required an operation in December.
He managed the injury to the extent that he featured in St Vincent’s All-Ireland club final success, but since then he has been playing catch-up on his fitness for inter-county duty.
Gavin may decide to give Brennan more time to regain his sharpness, and if that’s the case, then Nicky Devereux, who played centre-back in the league final hammering of Derry, is the likely replacement.
Given Dublin’s propensity to name teams and change the line-up before the game begins, supporters won’t know if Brennan gets the nod until the Dubs take the pitch for the opening game in defence of their Leinster and All-Ireland titles.
Brennan wants to get back to action as soon as possible after missing the league success.
“You would obviously love to be playing. It was great to see the team get the result, but you would have liked to have been involved. But there’s always a bigger picture going on,” he says.
The Dubs are red-hot favourites for the title, but that is not a tag that sits easily with Brennan.
“I think that’s bull,” is his blunt assessment. “As a player, to allow yourself to think like that means you will get a kick in the you know where.
“Maybe supporters are going to get carried away – just look at Liverpool.
“One of my brothers and a cousin had flights booked to go over for the final weekend and cancelled them. They were getting carried away, but the lesson as a player is that you can’t think like that.
“Everyone else can talk about it – we can’t control that.”
Talking of Liverpool, in their great days when Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush and Ronnie Whelan were in their pomp, medals and trophies won were soon consigned to history when the next campaign began.
A sense of realism and appreciation of the challenges ahead replaced hype and any temptation to sit on their laurels, and that’s the attitude Brennan takes to 2013, even though it yielded league, Leinster and All-Ireland trophies.
“Last season is last season. In the league this year we were poor for large parts of it, and Derry had an off day in the final,” he warns.
“These names of stardom associated with the team lately... I can’t for one second buy into them, because there is so much work to be done to get ourselves up to a level where we perform during the championship.
“When you look at the last couple of All-Ireland finals, we have only won by a point.
“There really isn’t that much between teams at senior inter-county level, and when you look at the Division 1 and 2 finals, there were three Ulster teams. Ulster is extremely strong this year.
“Teams are hiding in the long grass, and if we are not careful, we will get a kick.”
Dublin’s style of play has changed under Gavin, and on the broader front, the arrival of the black card has helped attackers, hindering defenders from making reckless tackles.
You might consider that Brennan would bemoan the arrival of the black card, but that’s not the case.
“I think it has been quite successful. The average score has gone up something like 10 points and made it a more enjoyable spectacle,” he says.
“As a defender you just have to respect the art of tackling and go for the ball and not the man, and that is the challenge that is there for you.
“It is nice to have new challenges every year. It keeps things interesting
for you, so it has been successful.”
The championship is just a few weeks old and the games have been mixed in style between the open fare seen in the league, and more dogged, defensive tactics such as Donegal employed in defeating Derry last Sunday week.
Tight defensive format or open ‘we’ll score more than you’ matches – what is Brennan’s preference? The answer is, essentially, whatever works best.
“It certainly is a different way of playing now to how we played with Pat (Gilroy), but it’s something that is enjoyable.
I think supporters of GAA in general, not just in Dublin, are enjoying the way we play,” he says.
“A lot of other teams like Derry are playing open and expansive football.
“Is it tougher for a defender? I would say it is, but do you mind? No you don’t, once the team is winning.”
Resilience is a significant characteristic of the Dublin sides managed by Gilroy and Gavin.
“That’s a testament to the effort Pat and Jim have put in with players over the last few years,” says Brennan.
“That ‘never say die attitude’ is something every team talks about, but not every team has it. It’s something we do work on, to never give up.”