Alan Brogan keen as ever to make impact
'Rumour' failed to retire him last year ... now Alan is back where he planned to be
The Monday morning after the calamity before. Donegal have just done a number on the All-Ireland holders. And then Alan Brogan 'retires'. For Dublin diehards, Blue Monday can't get any worse …
Except he hasn't retired. And here's the proof: this Sunday he will play his part in pursuit of a third Celtic Cross.
"It grew like wildfire," Brogan tells The Herald, harking back to that presumptuous rumour. "Obviously with social media it grew very quick - but I don't know where it came from. I certainly hadn't indicated to anyone that I was retiring at that stage. Maybe people put one and one together and they got three.
"No, at this stage, I don't regret the decision of coming back. I'm back in an All-Ireland final, which is precisely the reason I came back."
The "one and one equals three" may well have been the photo of a tearful Brogan holding his son Jamie after that semi-final ambush. What may have looked like the end of an era, though, was just the traumatic end to a year that promised so much more.
The rumour - if not quite the months of "will he or won't he?" speculation - was quashed by a tweet from the man himself, that same morning. "My family and teammates will be the first to know," he clarified.
The birth of his second son in March delayed his return to the county fold until April, and since then the elder Brogan has been readjusting to life as an impact sub.
For a player who, fitness permitting, has been more or less a guaranteed starter since his senior breakthrough in 2002, this is a whole new ball game. But as a 33-year-old veteran who is probably (but not definitely) in his swansong season, he has adapted to the role and won't be playing the prima donna over Jim Gavin's team selection to face Kerry.
Maybe it helps that, in recent years, a Croke Park watching brief has frequently been his lot. In 2011 he became an All-Ireland winner, at the tenth time of asking, and Footballer of the Year. And then, in the following year's Leinster final against Meath, he came off early with a groin injury that would evolve into a 14-month nightmare.
He attempted a comeback, off the bench, in that year's All-Ireland semi-final against Mayo but his body rebelled within minutes. Surgery during the off-season followed, but his 2013 comeback was delayed and delayed and then, even when he finally recovered ahead of their All-Ireland quarter-final against Cork, he tweaked a hamstring.
The first we saw of Brogan that year was wearing No 28, as a late addition to the final panel against Mayo. Yet as heads collided and hamstrings snapped that day, he stayed on the bench. "I was in quite good form for the final - I had been when I tore my hamstring as well. But it would have been a big ask to go straight into an All-Ireland final," he accepts.
Then he adds: "Jim has built this thing about the 30, and everyone feels they are part of it. I know he talks about it all the time but everyone does feel that they are contributing, whether they play on game day or not.
"The success of this squad is not built in Croke Park; it's built out on the training pitches where the 30 or 34 of us train every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and in the gym on Monday nights. That's where the real team is built."
This, he surmises, is one difference from the team of the mid-noughties. "When we got to an All-Ireland quarter-final or semi-final, some guys knew they weren't going to be playing and you could see their intensity levels dropping off," he recounts. "Whereas now, even the guys towards the end of the panel who mightn't think they're going to be playing are still maintaining those intensity levels."
Brogan would "love to be starting" against Kerry but accepts the reality of his situation: when he returned to the team last year he started all five SFC matches but didn't finish one of them, "so it was the next step to be moved onto the bench and maybe feature for ten or 15 minutes."
For the record, despite not playing a minute in 2013, he received an All-Ireland medal. Does he regard it as equal to the one garnered in 2011? "Ah, I do. And for me to say it didn't would be an insult to maybe the ten or 12 guys who didn't feature, who mightn't feature next Sunday, but who have put in a huge amount of work."