'We don't do sentiment' - Declan Darcy explains why 'disappointed' Bernard Brogan was left out of Dublin squad
Sentiment "doesn't wash" with the Dublin management team.
In the now familiar setting of a bright September Monday morning in Dublin's Gibson Hotel, selector Declan Darcy reflected on the decision to omit Bernard Brogan from the official 26-man squad for Sunday's All-Ireland final.
The remarkable speed in which Brogan was able to recover from a torn cruciate ligament in February to make it back in early August for the last few minutes of a Roscommon All-Ireland quarter-final has won admiration from his peers. Jack McCaffrey reflected yesterday how, in his eyes, he made "the transition from an excellent Dublin footballer to a Dublin legend over the last season because he was given the easy out (if he wanted it)" with the injury.
Darcy shared that view, but when it came to the clinical process of squad selection, there could be no pandering to any past glory.
Instead, Brogan was given the No 27 jersey and a de facto role on the day in recognition of the effort he made this year. "We don't do sentiment," said Darcy. "That does not wash with us, but we do acknowledge that he is a phenomenal player and the massive effort he made to come back.
"He was disappointed, but at the same time we had to pick the 26 we felt were going to do the best for the team. He was not that far off it, just another couple of weeks (away).
"You still have to be very respectful of players like Bernard and what he has given to the county and jersey."
With nine players either 25 or under on Sunday's starting team, they've been able to regenerate without missing a beat.
They always had a "good feeling" about Brian Howard, said Darcy, but Eoin Murchan, who again saw off Niall Sludden, "came on the blindside a little bit".
"He's a small guy. Again, he defied all the odds and you couldn't but admire his determination and focus to get to where he wanted to get to."
Darcy hinted that the six-point All-Ireland win, resounding by comparison to all their recent final margins of victory, was satisfying.
"We kind of felt that we hadn't really delivered what we would have felt was a performance fitting for the group," he admitted.
"The perception, probably, is that this team, with the key strengths it has, it should be a little bit easier. But it still takes a huge shift for the players to get across the line."
Darcy also praised how the Dublin players continue to stay "grounded", despite their bulging catalogue of record-breaking achievements.
It's why they continue to do much of their winter training in the Inisfails club just off the Malahide Road rather than in a more state-of the-art complex like Abbotstown or UCD, he pointed out.
The trip to the Somme battlefield in April, where captain Stephen Cluxton laid a wreath to commemorate the Irish who died in World War One, is part of that perspective.
"You need to be humble and very grateful for where we're at," Darcy said. "I think there is a danger that players lose the context of what they're about and the realities of life."
The Somme visit was made, he said, "in the context of so many Irish had fallen on the battlefield".
"Again, grounding players. How many had fallen? Keeping players with the realities of life. Football is a completely different context to life, but I suppose there are some similarities. It was a very poignant weekend. A lot of the players got a lot of value out of it and it gave us a lot of stuff going forward."