Catch me if you can
BERNARD BROGAN has watched with admitted admiration – and, all told, just a pinch of concern – the rapid blossoming of a succession of Dublin forwards this spring.
He is of the age, and by virtue of his career achievements, where he now holds the status of a leader of his team and, as such, beholds the widening of the scoring burden on so many other players.
Yet the competitive part of him is acutely aware that the equation of contenders into starters is becoming quite heavily weighted on one side.
"I won't be waving anyone through," Brogan insists. "They can come, they can battle away and we'll all move in the right direction together. But I'll work hard to stake my place and get the jersey for as long as possible."
So far this year, there has been the rise, rise and rise again of Paul Mannion, the rebooting of Paddy Andrews and Dean Rock's league final coming of age.
Then, as Brogan points out, one must factor into Jim Gavin's attacking equation, "the likes of Ciarán Kilkenny, Alan (Brogan) and Eoghan O'Gara" all at various stages of their comebacks from injury.
So while his early season, pre-injury performances suggested Dublin's forward line would once again be constructed closely around his own immense talents, his league final substitution – and Rock's winning of the game – proved similarly that Jim Gavin need not rest his hopes on the form or well-being of any single player.
"You can't have your way every day," he reflects of his replacement by Gavin for Rock two Sundays' back. "I was well marshalled on the day. The lads were tight enough so you just have to put your hands up and Jim knows that.
"And in fairness, Jim made the change and Dean Rock was the change and he was the winning of the game. He got two great scores. That's what you want."
"You need to have a manager who has the confidence to make a change and make the call. So no, it's a team game and we won the league. There have been times when lads have been left on in the past when they weren't playing well and things haven't gone our way.
"It makes things quite competitive," Brogan adds. "It will be some battle for places come championship. It is better for the team, lads will be more honest, work harder and it will benefit us."
Of perhaps unquantifiable benefit for Dublin would be a fully fit Alan Brogan, yet even at this stage, with just weeks to go until their championship opener on June 1, it is largely unclear when he will be fully fit. "With Alan," his younger sibling points out, "in fairness, he's a guy who can show up on any Sunday and turn it around.
"He doesn't need to have six months of training in him before he's right, he's just one of these natural freaks of footballers. But he's back moving, and moving quite freely
"He understands ... we all understand ... how that can affect you mentally, but he's actually taken a new role. He's around the place, he's talking to young lads and leading them."
One of whom – Mannion – has, in the second 'half' of the league – made quite a compelling case for inclusion against Westmeath or Carlow on June 1, despite being in his first year with the seniors and playing only a substitutes role for Gavin's under-21s in last year's All-Ireland final.
"I don't see why not," says Brogan when asked whether the Kilmacud Crokes man can crack it in his debut Dublin senior season. "You've seen the impact that he has had in the league.
"He is very confident and is able to play ball. His age won't be a factor in whether he plays or not and if he keeps up the form he's in he'll be there.
"He has pace to burn as well and you can't substitute pace in Croke Park – look at Darran O'Sullivan, if the boy goes by you there's no catching him whether he's 18 or 28 – Mannion is lightening quick and it is very hard to stop him. As long as he keeps up the confidence and doesn't worry about it or think too much about it, I think he'll be OK."
All of which points to a Dublin team nicely laden down with attacking threats but of whom questions of a defensive nature have materialised.
"It's a work in progress," Brogan insists. "We want to defend as well as we can and get the right balance. Obviously, it's not the finished article, but we're working away on it. For the next couple of weeks when we're back with the clubs, they (management) are working away at getting the system right and finding the right way to go and then we can spend the next few weeks getting that right.
"We're not the finished article but we're going the right direction."