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Thursday 8 December 2016

'I might have quit Dubs but for Alan'

'Alan was the hero of the Hill, he was everything I wanted to be' - Bernard

Dublin footballer, Bernard Brogan, who is President of the Federation of Irish Sport at yesterday’s launch of the Federation of Irish Sport’s Annual Review 2015. Photo: Morgan Treacy/INPHO
Dublin footballer, Bernard Brogan, who is President of the Federation of Irish Sport at yesterday’s launch of the Federation of Irish Sport’s Annual Review 2015. Photo: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

There was a part of Bernard Brogan who felt, as opposed to just hoped, that Alan would continue his Dublin career for one more season.

Given the circumstances of his exit; the All-Ireland win, the emblematic late point, his 'advancing years' and the general upward mobility of Dublin football, the decision looked - in hindsight - something of a fait accompli.

Not so, says his brother.

"There was a glimmer of hope a couple of months ago," Bernard explained, "when I felt that he might come back if Jim gave him till March or April or May and he might come back for the summer."

Not an unreasonable arrangement, one might assume.

"I even said that to him myself, and he said the level that county football is at now, coming back in May is not good enough.

"He wouldn't be right. He made a decision after chatting to Lydia (Alan's wife) and the family that it was the right thing to do. And he feels like he has given it everything and nobody can begrudge him the exit he made last September.

"Not everyone gets to write their fairytale. His is written in the stars.

"It is a nice way to go. There is always the want to come back and try it again, but you don't get to leave on such a positive note and he will always be remembered as a very special man the way he walked out."

At times like this, congratulations are the prescribed offering to the just-retired.

But so synonymous has Alan Brogan been with Dublin football and so interlinked are the two identities, it's hard to know whether the occasions of his retirement is a cause for celebration or commiseration.

Dublin-less summers will, according to Bernard, come as "a big shock" to his older brother.

"He has done it for 14 or 15 years," he points out.

"He was 19 when he went into the senior panel, he has been going at minor since he was 17, he has literally been doing it all his adult life so it will be a big shock for him.

"I know he is very upset. I met him last night.

"I only live across the road and went across to him last night for a couple of hours just to have a glass of champagne and we don't know whether to say congratulations or commiserations.

"We haven't figured out what is the right word to say."

In a statement yesterday, Jim Gavin called Brogan: "A naturally skilful player, Alan played with great poise, resilience and self-determination throughout his career," adding that he was "an outstanding individual and gentleman".

For Bernard, the assessment of Alan's influence has an understandably personal dimension.

But he doesn't hesitate for a second when he says: "I probably wouldn't be playing for Dublin if it wasn't for him."

Recalling his early foray into inter-county seniordom, a two-year stretch stuck to 'Pillar' Caffrey's bench, Brogan admits: "There were many times I would have thrown my hat at it if I wasn't travelling out to training with Alan.

"It was easy because of that. Alan was the hero of the Hill, he was everything I wanted to be and he was there beside me.

"If he hadn't been there, I probably wouldn't have put in the commitment or the work to get up there beside him," said the St Oliver Plunkett's/ER man.

"We've travelled to training together for 11 years so it's going to be a lonely journey, it's going to be different," Bernard admitted. "I would have always had him there to chat about ... we would've talked about strategies, game-plans.

"I would have bounced a lot of stuff off him.

"Alan would have been a good sounding board for management as well and they would've always got his insight because he knows football," concluded Bernard.

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