Monday 24 October 2016

Brogan proves adage class is forever

Injury-free and released from the frees, Bernard is scoring for fun and back approaching his 2010 Footballer of the Year peak

Bernard Brogan
Bernard Brogan
Bernard Brogan, Dublin, in action against David Hyland, Kildare

Age, they say, is just a number. Bernard Brogan is 31. He was born in the same month - April 1984 - as his long-time colleague, Bryan Cullen.

The former All-Ireland winning captain called time on his inter-county career at the start of this year. In many respects Cullen's decision was no great surprise: he was moving on with his own career and family life while another contributory factor, obviously, was the fact that he had gradually slipped down the Dublin pecking order under Jim Gavin.

Meanwhile, as his latest prolific summer has unfolded, we have witnessed Brogan floating across the Croke Park turf like a butterfly and stinging not so much like a bee but a deadly Asian hornet.


More twentysomething tearaway than thirtysomething veteran, he has made four SFC appearances ahead of tomorrow's semi-final showdown with Mayo for a return of 5-16.

And all from play. Crazy, when you stop to think about it, even if some of the initial defensive resistance in Leinster was the flimsy polar opposite to the oppressive walls erected by Tyrone and Derry in this year's league.

So, how has he managed to tally 1-6 against Longford, 2-3 against Kildare, 'just' 1-1 against Westmeath and another 1-6 against Fermanagh?

It's probably worth reminding that, partly but not entirely due to a serious knee injury, Brogan was a relatively late developer at elite level.

Alan's younger brother didn't make his championship debut until 2007, aged 23. By then, Cullen was a long-established mainstay of Paul Caffrey's team, having already earned his SFC spurs under Tommy Lyons as a teenage prodigy in 2003.

In an interview with the Sunday Independent, last May, Brogan recalled: "I did a cruciate at 20, it took me three years, I was on the bench, couldn't get on the team. Were it not for Alan being there, I might have quit.

"Obviously, like any kid I always wanted to play for Dublin. If you ask me if he (Alan) wasn't there would I be there today? Probably not. I went into Croke Park and sat on the bench, other times I was not even on the panel, I watched from the Hill ... so I spent three years waiting for my chance.

"I always say that to the young players about not getting frustrated. Sometimes I was not getting a game on the A v B in training, over three years. I went the hard route to get where I am and I always say that to kids - if you want something, do not give up."

This summer's form has rekindled memories of 2010 when we had the near-unique scenario of a semi-final loser being a shoo-in for Footballer of the Year. He won his maiden All Star that year - and followed up with his second and third awards in the years of All-Ireland coronation, 2011 and 2013.


Thus, his importance to Dublin's cause has scarcely abated - he has been their go-to inside assassin for over half-a-decade now. Yet it's undeniable that injury niggles had a disruptive effect on some recent campaigns, notably in the last two seasons.

This year, he has been moving freely and clocking up the scores with indecent regularity.

"He got a good pre-season in," big brother Alan points out. "He's probably training since November or December, so I think we're seeing the fruits of that now.

"He looks very sharp, and obviously his scoring returns have been exceptionally good as well. And, considering the (era of) blanket defence, where you would expect inside forwards to be scoring less because there's so many bodies around … his scoring returns seem to have increased."

There is another possible factor: he no longer has responsibility for taking the right-footed frees, a duty now assumed by the metronomic Dean Rock. For the most part, Brogan was a reliable deadball machine too. However, as the wheels came off Dublin's title defence against Donegal 12 months ago, he missed two presentable second half chances.

"It's not something I've spoken to him about," says Alan. "But yeah, obviously if you miss a free, it can dwell on your mind for a few minutes, particularly if it's an important one. So maybe not having that has freed up his mind a little bit and has helped improve his form elsewhere."

Signs are on it: he was The Herald's Man of the Match against Longford and Fermanagh and has garnered three nine-out-of-ten ratings in his four outings.

Now, as the litmus test of Mayo beckons, his teammates know they have a marquee forward to depend on.


"He's flying in training. It's great to see that he's making that transition on to match-day. We all know how good a player he is, how important he is to the Dublin team," says Cian O'Sullivan.

"Bernard's just one of those natural talents and if you give him a bit of space, he'll do damage," echoes Michael Darragh Macauley.

"He's in good shape. But he doesn't need to run marathons ... he can get out first and stick it over the bar and that's all you want from Bernard."

And generally what you'll always get.

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