herald

Wednesday 24 May 2017

Up to Bernard to disprove the Brolly verdict

Dublin's Bernard Brogan. Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin's Bernard Brogan. Photo: Sportsfile

With one defeat, the doomsayers were hovering. Not over the death of Dublin's All-Ireland dream (not even the world's most foolhardy pundit would be that definitive) but over the 'demise' of their greatest 'assassin' of modern times.

"The young will rise as the old doth fall. I just think it's Bernard time. His time has come and gone. He was one of the great forwards. There it is. That's life."

So pronounced Joe Brolly on RTÉ's Allianz League Sunday, in the wake of Dublin's first league or championship defeat in 37 matches.

He was talking, of course, about Bernard Brogan - and surmising that the 2010 Footballer of the Year and four-time All Star is finished. Kaput. Thanks for the memories ...

Dubious

But how can you make such a sweeping judgement based on one 70-minute contest in April? Doubtless our eminent legal eagle will counter that the evidence has been mounting for some time; that there was a very valid reason why Jim Gavin deigned to drop the undroppable for last year's All-Ireland final replay.

And, try as Ciarán Whelan did to moderate the debate by referencing the dubious quality of ball entering Brogan's domain, Brolly was more inclined to cite the lack of runs coming from Dublin's inside line.

A penny for the thoughts of the man himself?

This column's tuppence-worth, however, is that Brogan deserves some slack. Sunday certainly won't feature in any career highlights reel - but he was undermined by the delivery from outside.

He is not your typical target man; but even Eoghan O'Gara would have struggled to claim several of the high or over-cooked balls that floated in Brogan's vague direction.

Moreover, it's only a fortnight since several pundits were waxing lyrical about his seasonal comeback against Roscommon, when he scored 0-3, brilliantly teed up Paul Flynn for his goal and did lots more positive work inside.

Sure that was only the Rossies? True. But a week later, this time introduced shortly before half-time against a more credible rival in Monaghan, he showed a Gooch-like calmness to slot the goal that launched Dublin's comeback.

For all that, he is facing one of his biggest career challenges. Brogan has just turned 33 - that makes him only ten months younger than Colm Cooper, who has just decided his body wasn't up to the rigours of another county season.

Are we comparing like with like? Not quite: Cooper made his SFC debut before his 19th birthday, launching himself onto a perennial August/September treadmill, whereas Brogan was a relative latecomer to the senior stage.

And while it's true that the Dublin forward has also faced his own cruciate demons, Cooper's Battle of Wounded Knee happened when he had already turned 30.

And yet, if Brogan is to remain a cornerstone of Dublin's three-in-a-row quest, he'll have to show more than he did against Kerry.

Acceleration

Gavin admitted afterwards that he'll analyse his own selection calls. There is a clear possibility that he will shake up his attack for their Leinster SFC quarter-final, against Wexford or Carlow on June 3. The manager needs more pace inside. For all their cleverness, a pairing of Paddy Andrews and Brogan isn't blessed with blinding acceleration.

And there are options. Paul Mannion has catapulted himself right up the queue, plus you have Cormac Costello and Con O'Callaghan, to name just two alternatives. "The young will rise," said Brolly ... but don't presume the old master is ready to fall just yet.

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