Brogan: my injury has left me vexed
HE'LL be back anyway, but when exactly Alan Brogan wears the Dublin jersey again is an entirely different matter.
The sight of Brogan hobbling, visibly frustrated from the pitch in Croke Park, just 18 minutes after his arrival as a half-time substitute during Dublin's All-Ireland semi-final exit to Mayo, represented clear and painful evidence that the groin injury which plagued his summer had been more serious than was originally believed.
With Dublin surrendering their All-Ireland crown and Pat Gilroy's subsequent abdication, Brogan's injury was largely lost in the hectic few days which followed. But eventually, he received an exact and somewhat dreaded diagnosis: Osteitis pubis -- an inflammation of the pubis symphysis joint which causes lower abdominal and pelvic pain and, in every way, is a pain to get rid of.
"I'm not even sure what it is myself to be honest," explained Brogan yesterday.
"I think it just takes time and if it doesn't clear over time it may need an operation, but I haven't decided to go down that route yet. It certainly will need two or three months. I won't be playing in the O'Byrne Cup anyway."
Pressed on the severity of the injury which has afflicted sporting notables such as Joe Canning and Paul O'Connell, Brogan concedes he could "miss the first couple" of Dublin's 2013 league matches, and if surgery is ultimately required, possibly a couple more.
Yet recalling the decision to bring him on against Mayo, Brogan's thoughts are understandably coloured with hindsight.
"The first ball I got was fine," he remembers, "it was actually the second ball - a high ball came in and when I landed that was the one when I felt I hurt it on again. If I was looking back, should I have played, should I not have played?
"Looking back now I probably shouldn't have played but at the time I was after doing the fitness test, played the training match the week before and felt okay. But maybe I shouldn't have played."
With looking back out of the way, Brogan was pressed on his thoughts on the rapidly unfolding future.
Jim Gavin has been installed as manager. A handful of players that Brogan soldiered with have made their exits - some forced out. And last Friday, when the 50-man provisional 2013 squad was assembled, he was the oldest player in the room.
"It's a bit of a realisation for me when fellas you started out with and played with are moving on," he admits. "You're half thinking you're coming to the end too . . . but hopefully I've another year or two left."
The year Brogan made his debut (2002) was the same season Paul Casey arrived on the scene, and a season before Tomás Quinn fully established himself with Tommy Lyons.
Ross McConnell, Eamon Fennell, Michael Savage and his youngest brother Paul all came along later but have, for the time being at least, been vanquished.
"I think every manager comes in and he has to make a couple of changes. It keeps fellas on their toes a little bit as well," Brogan muses.
"Guys who are there have to prove themselves again and the new guys coming in, guys that Jim has worked with with the under-21s, they'll have to prove themselves too. It's important for the panel and I think when you're operating at the level we're trying to operate at, you need competition for places, not just in the team but also at the latter end of the panel. I think that's what Jim is trying to create."
Of the meeting itself, Brogan insists there was nothing hectic or earth-shattering said.
"It was fairly top-line stuff," he explains.
"Jim was just outlining his plans for the next couple of months. But it was more to introduce himself to fellas. He is pulling a panel together for the next couple of months and obviously, he'll trim it down later. There were a lot of young faces in the room, which was good."
Stephen Cluxton wasn't present and neither was Barry Cahill, but Brogan is sure that both have committed themselves for 2013, so at least a few of his own vintage are hanging on.
And this isn't entirely unchartered territory for Brogan either.
He has close experience of Gavin's management before, when the new man and Declan Darcy coached Brogan's successful under-21 team of 2003, and predicts a very disciplined approach.
"Jim's very focused. He certainly will leave no stone unturned. He has a huge passion for Dublin football.
"Any man that gives 12 or 13 years as a player and gives five years with the under-21s has to have a passion for what he is doing. I think if he can pass some of that passion on to some of the players, it will be a good thing.
"These fellas have competed at All-Ireland minor and a couple of All-Ireland under-21s," he adds, by way of assessing their credentials. "These guys have been there and done it. Obviously, there is a step up to be made.
"All you can do is give a fella a chance. You might only get three or four guys coming off each team but if you get that, it's enough to make a difference in the senior team going into next summer."