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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Ciaran Whelan: Alan Brogan's returns gives Dubs a massive boost

Older Brogan will turn up the heat in battle for forward slots especially on inside line

Alan Brogan
Alan Brogan
Ciaran Whelan

QUESTIONS, questions. Will Alan Brogan play this Sunday? If not, will he play a fortnight later, should Dublin win?

If so, where will he play?

What sort of shape is he in?

Will he start? If he doesn't, how would he react to a first inter-county season in 14 starting on the bench?

"It certainly takes time. You can't expect, at that age of your career having come back from significant break, it's not an easy transition," says fomer Dublin midfielder Ciarán Whelan.

"And possibly, the nature of the Leinster championship will give Jim Gavin opportunities to get game time under his belt and I think that will be important.

"I can see him featuring during Leinster because he'll need quality game time. But it's a huge boost to Dublin, to have him back."

To ascertain Brogan's level of involvement this year, it's pertinent to calculate his prospects with the same methods as those of any other players.

Brogan, who turned 33 in January, started every one of Dublin's Championship matches in 2014.

He lasted (from Laois to Donegal, chronologically); 50 minutes, 47 minutes, 50 minutes, 64 minutes and 53 minutes of medium-to-high intensity football matches.

That he wasn't nominated for an All Star for his performances therein ranked as at least mildly surprising to some, and not just inside the capital's borders.

As regards potential challengers for a starting spot, the obvious one is Ciarán Kilkenny, back after missing all of last summer but Eoghan O'Gara is gone, struck by the same ACL misfortune that befell Kilkenny.

Of those perched on the attacking fringes, only Dean Rock can be securely certain of having forwarded his starting ambitions this spring thus far.

Paul Mannion is studying in China and may return this summer but in what shape football-wise, no-one knows.

Conor McHugh, currently starring in Dublin's under-21 run, has played just once in the League as a substitute in Cork and couldn't, therefore, be said to represent anything other than a dotted blip on Jim Gavin's radar.

What is certain is that Diarmuid Connolly's value to this Dublin team from a central position in the half-forward line won't be compromised by the return of any player, meaning lots of those talking about Alan Brogan starting for Dublin this summer are talking about him doing so in the inside, rather than half-forward, line.

"Where you could argue that Dublin maybe need a boost in strength," Whelan notes.

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"Dublin have great strength in the half-forwards with Diarmuid Connolly and Paul Flynn and maybe Jim will be looking inside and using the likes of Ciarán Kilkenny and Alan in the inside line with Bernard.

"He may consider Alan as an impact sub or he may consider him as an inside forward. But primarily, he'll be looking to get game time under his belt.

"That's what Alan will want; game time to get up to the level required because he's had a significant time away from it."

Of the prospect of Brogan finishing, rather than starting, for Dublin this year, Whelan notes: "That's a huge challenge for every player as they get to the latter part of their inter-county careers.

"But I do think that Alan is mature enough and he's a sensible enough guy to realise that whatever discussion he's had with Jim, that if he's playing well enough, he'll be in the starting 15."

Whelan continues: "Alan doesn't have that huge ego that he would have that expectation.

"And I think he would be fully understanding that he would do what he had to do for the team to get them over the line.

"But," Whelan concludes, "I wouldn't be ruling out that he will start in the team at some stage during the year."

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