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Tuesday 21 August 2018

Alan Brogan the hot favourite for 'footballer of the year'

HE was the young Dub with a rich pedigree who illuminated the new Croke Park during a sparkling debut season in 2002. Now Alan Brogan has crowned a decade of stellar service, littered with pain, by claiming that elusive Celtic Cross.

Can it get any better for the elder Brogan? Well, probably, for there isn't a more deserving candidate for Footballer of the Year.

In the event that Brogan is duly honoured, it would complete a remarkable double for his family. Last season, Bernard Brogan was a shoo-in for the individual bauble without even playing in an All-Ireland final.

This year, it's not quite so clearcut. But after yesterday's comeback from the brink of defeat, it has to be a Dub ... and there is one outstanding candidate, Alan Brogan.

Hard to believe that nine years have passed since the precocious St Oliver Plunkett's clubman stormed to national attention during Tommy Lyons' first year as Dublin manager.



HEARTBREAKING

The Sky Blues hadn't won a Leinster title in seven years but, propelled by a brand new strike force of Brogan and Ray Cosgrove, they took the championship by storm.

Cossie, with his six goals and 23 points, was the obvious star turn but his younger accomplice also firmly established himself as a favourite of the Hill.

He had, as they say in the business, good breeding: his father, Bernard Snr, was part of Dublin's fabled 1970s team.

But if his jet-heeled son reckoned it was only a matter of time before he followed in the All-Ireland winning footsteps of Dad, Alan was sadly mistaken. For the guts of a decade, he was at the vanguard of successive Dublin pushes for Sam Maguire ... and each time they came up short.

It was not for the want of trying by Brogan who, until the belated blooming of his younger brother, was Dublin's premier forward. Back-to-back All Stars came his way in 2006 and 2007, but that was scant reward for the heartbreak of consecutive All-Ireland semi-final defeats to Mayo and Kerry.

The following year, 2008, ended in devastating circumstances. As skipper, Alan had led by example that summer, scoring a staggering 1-7 from play against Louth on day one and playing a prolific role, too, in the Leinster final demolition of Wexford.

On the back of their emphatic provincial form, Dublin were favourites to slay Tyrone ... but within a matter of minutes, Brogan's hamstring had snapped and - before too long - Dublin's resistance had snapped too.

In the wake of that crushing 12-point defeat, Paul Caffrey called time on his Dublin reign. Twelve months later, with Pat Gilroy now at the tiller, Dublin suffered an even more mortifying quarter-final defeat to Kerry. Alan Brogan was Dublin's best performer that day, scoring 0-3 from play, but that was scant consolation on a day when Dublin's attacking talisman appeared further away than ever from that tantalising All-Ireland medal.

Not any more. There was the odd moment during the ensuing two years when it briefly appeared that the unthinkable might happen - that Alan Brogan might no longer be an automatic first choice for the Dubs.

But the 29-year-old veteran has merely redoubled his efforts. Even a disputed red card during Dublin's final regulation league game this season, in Galway, didn't knock him back for long. He missed the resultant league final against Cork - Dublin's first Division One decider in 12 years. Dublin missed him too as they imploded in the home straight after a brilliant first 40 minutes.

Come the Leinster championship, he was back on the team and emphatically back in business. Three games running, against Laois, Kildare and Wexford, he was Dublin's top performer - a 'Man of the Match' compendium that established him as an early front-runner for his third All Star.

Crucially, Brogan didn't let up in the All-Ireland series. He put in a typically lung-busting shift as Dublin laid waste to Tyrone. He banished some early shooting squandermania against Donegal, driving at their massed defence during Dublin's second half comeback.



SPECTACULAR

And yesterday, after two spectacular early points, he still had the energy to make the run onto Cian O'Sullivan's pass before picking out Kevin McManamon for the goal that transformed this All-Ireland final -- and turned Dublin into champions for the first time in 16 years.

This was a day when Dublin's elder statesmen -- the likes of match-winning 'keeper Stephen Cluxton, skipper Bryan Cullen and Barry Cahill, not to mention substitute Paul Casey -- were finally rewarded after a decade of heart-wrenching near-misses.

They all deserve their Celtic Crosses, but Alan Brogan deserves somthing more. He's our choice for Footballer of the Year.

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