Saturday 22 October 2016

time's come for brady at long last

Na Fianna man attributes recent form to finding full fitness and a show of faith from Dubs management

BACK before people used to search high and low for mitigation, reasons and/or excuses as to why Dublin were winning all the time, people used to mull and muse over reasons/excuses as to why Dublin couldn't win at all.

So it was at the start of 2010 when Kieran McGeeney, having spent a decade playing his club football with Na Fianna, examined the basket case that was then Dublin's inability to stumble over the All-Ireland line at the press launch of that season's National League.

The rivalry between Dublin and Kildare - with whom McGeeney was beginning a third season in charge - had yet to really flare and his thoughts were part of a general Leinster football spoken-word thesis but he was as enlightening as ever as to why the Dubs had gone All-Ireland-less for the preceding decade-and-a-half.

"There are so many different pressures on their players that other counties don't have to deal with," McGeeney surmised.

"Play one good O'Byrne Cup game and you're a household name in Dublin. That's a different pressure.

"There are talented players, the likes of Paul Brogan and Diarmuid Connolly - top-rate players. But you're hearing about them before they even play.

"Then hurling's very big in Dublin. Like, I would have Tomás Brady in my (football) team, regardless of who I was managing."

At that particular time, Brady was known mostly as a Dublin hurler of some promise who also played a bit of underage for the footballers and only occasionally for Na Fianna.

The truth, as with a lot of these cases, was that Brady had merely been selected for the hurlers first.

Thus, the ambition to play football for Dublin still burned vividly, if also quietly, and McGeeney's endorsement spoke plenty of Brady's ability, even with such limited exposure to a level of football as high as senior club.


When he accepted Jim Gavin's invitation to cross codes before the beginning of the 2013 season, plenty felt Brady had left it too late.

Then, when he ruptured his cruciate ligament - for the second time in his career - in a challenge match against Roscommon prior to the beginning of summer, more pondered whether the hurlers would even take him back now that, presumably, his shot in the dark at making it as a footballer had gone.

Even more so after Dublin went on to win an All-Ireland that September.

Last year, upon full recovery, his summer was muted. Brady's involvement mostly peripheral.

But with Cian O'Sullivan and Michael Darragh Macauley spending time absent from Dublin's midfield this year, he has, after two-and-a-bit years of trying, established himself as a very real option there.

During Dublin's most compelling performance of the year so far in Castlebar, he was justly declred Man of the Match, kicking three points from play from that very position he has no problem in saying is his favourite.

"Last year I was just back sort of finding my feet," Brady says now.

"Obviously you don't have the luxury like with other counties, you might get more of an opportunity but it's so competitive in Dublin, that you don't get as much game time coming back from injury.


"This year I've a good 14 months of training under my belt so that'll stand me in good stead coming into the summer to hopefully feature a lot more."

Given Dublin's relative paucity of options in midfield and across the half-forward line, Brady was always likely to be given his chance and on the evidence of this spring, he has gone a long distance towards taking it.

He notes: "Every league campaign when you're trying to break into this team is important.

"I think this year probably more than the last two years, guys have got an opportunity to stake a claim so I think, hopefully, I'll put the hand up and do the best I can in championship.

"I probably played more football in the last few months than I have in the two years before that.

"You can feel yourself getting sharper and skills and that are much more advanced than, say, they were this time last year.


"It's purely down to staying injury free and consistently training and playing games.

"That's purely what it's down to."

As it happens, the admiration from McGeeney is a two-way thing.

"It was early on in my career and towards the latter end of his," Brady now recalls.

"He was such a great leader. He's a great talker in the dressing room, a great motivator.

"He was always...himself and Enda McNulty; great motivators. So it's no surprise the impact he's had (on management). I've seen Armagh have been promoted and are up to Division 2, so he's had a good impact there as well.

"He's just so professional and ruthless in his approach. You could see that in his player.

"I had a couple of run-ins as well when I was on the wrong end of a couple of 50/50 balls in training and learned a couple of lessons that way," adds Brady. "He took no prisoners."

So after two seasons of trying, Brady is among the runners in the Dublin team as it heads towards summer.

Cork - Sunday's opponents in the League final - are, he reckons, "probably the form team in the country this year and most consistent. They had some very tough fixtures in the league, four up the North.


"I think they have adapted their style of play and learned a lot of lessons from the Munster final last year.

"They are not as defensive as some teams but they do bring some of their forwards back and try to break at pace.

Brady concludes: "Any game between Dublin and Cork is always competitive and it was like that in Páirc Uí Rinn earlier in the year."

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