Leader Ger is making lost time
Brennan: 'I'd love to finish out on a high with Dublin'
RARELY has a player's reputation spiked so sharply in their absence as Ger Brennan's at the beginning of last month.
By simple virtue of the very fact that he didn't actually play in the All-Ireland SFC semi-final against Donegal, when Jim McGuinness's men poured through the centre of the Brennan-less Dublin defence to plunder three goals and shock the Gaelic football world, his on-field value exploded in the minds of most right-thinking GAA people in the city.
His recent performances for St Vincent's, culminating in Monday night's thrilling Dublin SFC final win over St Oliver Plunkett's/Eoghan Ruadh, have only added both to Brennan's mystique and the acute sense of regret still being felt in Dublin over the semi-final loss.
"I don't know," Brennan shrugs at it all.
"I'd love to have been playing, of course I'd love to have been playing. Would I have done things different? I'd like to think I could have.
"But it's very easy when you're sitting on the side line in comparison to when you're caught up in the heat of battle."
"But, you know,
Jim and his management team had a game-plan. If we look at ourselves honestly, players probably didn't stick to that for the full amount of time.
"Is there some areas we could have learned from, offensively and defensively?
"Absolutely and I suppose that's learning that Jim and the management team will have to take into the next campaign going forward."
Almost every time Gavin spoke at his scheduled press briefings, the Dublin manager announced Brennan to be no closer - but similarly, no further away - from a return to playing after the groin and Achilles injuries that dogged him all season.
As it happened, Dublin ran out of matches.
And Brennan - through his early 2014 involvement with Vincent's in the All-Ireland club Championship and then injury - never kicked a ball for Dublin in the entire year.
"In fairness to Jim he gives everyone their opportunity to prove their fitness and I can't say enough for how well he's treated me in that regard," Brennan recalls.
"I suppose, in my own mind-set, I feel no regrets because I did everything that was asked of me in terms of recovery and I pushed myself as hard as I could and the body just wasn't ready there at the end."
And yet when Brennan made a return, in the second round of the Dublin SFC against St Sylvester's, less than three weeks after the Donegal game, his influence was immediate.
Against Ballyboden in the semi-final, he began and concluded the game brilliantly.
That smart and simple distribution of the ball, Brennan's aggressive tackling, his organisation and communication, his air of leadership ... it was all there after such a lengthy and annoying hiatus from football.
By Monday night, he was lifting the Clery Cup again, the captain of the first St Vincent's team to do win back-to-back Dublin titles since 1977.
"I always feel very fortunate no matter what," Brennan insists. "I think that happiness is a state of mind.
"There were times when I was frustrated and annoyed that my foot wasn't coming with my mind-set.
"But I'm very lucky to have such a strong medical team with Dublin and indeed with St Vincent's and the lads kind of kept me positive as well when I wasn't feeling so good about things.
"Again, to be part of such a great club and great group of guys as Vincent's, like, I'm just fortunate to be captain, the other lads do most of the work in fairness and I'm just the lucky one who gets to lift the cup."
Not that he's in completely rude health just yet. And the further Vincent's go in Leinster and perhaps the All-Ireland series might yet dictate in what shape he arrives back to Jim Gavin.
"I have a bit of work to do," Brennan admits.
"I suppose I went from zero to straight into championship against Sylvester's there four weeks ago.
"So there's probably a bit of gym work that I probably need to catch up on but I'll worry about that over the winter time.
"It's probably just match fitness. It's a bit sore now but I'll just ice it up and it'll be grand."
"If we keep winning with Vincent's there'll be no Dublin winter training so that'll be great!," he jokes.
"I think club teams train every bit as hard as inter-county players. The difference maybe is the bit of pace, the intensity levels and the skill levels.
"But there's very little that we'd be doing with the county and what we'd be doing with Vincent's.
"Would you like an auld block of two or three-months solid rehab work? Definitely. But that's not as it is so you adapt and do what you can and what you're faced with."
It's Portlaoise next in two weeks, perhaps the most difficult task Vincent's could have this side of Christmas.
"They won the Laois championship eight times in-a-row so they're experienced campaigners," Brennan notes
"They would have learned a lot against us in last year's final so I'm sure they'll relish the challenge."
And then, eventually another crack at Sam Maguire with the Dubs?
"It's a challenge. I'd like to finish out my career on a high with Dublin," he admits.
"But that's something I'll worry about when Vincent's are finished."