Bernard: I did too much
BERNARD BROGAN plans to taper his early-season schedule next year in the hope that he is firing on all cylinders when it matters most for Dublin.
THE Sky Blues' scorer-in-chief finished this year's triumphant All-Ireland campaign with two prolific displays against Kerry and then Mayo, paving the way for a third All Star award last Friday night.
But Brogan's soaring seasonal climax – four points from play off Kerry's man-marker supreme Marc ó Sé, followed by his 2-3 man-of-the-match haul against Mayo in the final – came at the business end of a topsy-turvy summer.
Prior to the semi-final, there had been much angst-ridden debate in the capital about Brogan's patchy form and the tendency for him to be replaced by manager Jim Gavin, sometimes even when the outcome was in the melting pot.
Looking back, the player himself reckons that he may have played too much football during the early months of January, February and into March and consequently "ran out of steam".
Back then, you may recall, he was shooting the lights out for Dublin in the O'Byrne Cup, the early league rounds (including a spectacular 1-10 romp against Mayo) and even for Leinster in the interprovincial series.
Something had to give, and he ended up missing matches during the second half of the league through injury before returning for the knockout stages.
Come the middle of summer, we had the almost unique occurrence of Brogan failing to score from play in back-to-back matches – he was confined to one converted free in the Leinster final against Meath and the same total against Cork, even if that All-Ireland quarter-final hinted at a return to form.
Reflecting on his red-hot early-spring form, Brogan recalled: "I was enjoying my football in the league, playing quite well, but I played probably a bit too much football in a row, and I think I just needed a bit of a rest; the legs were a bit sore."
Warming to the theme of player burnout, he went on: "Nearly all of our panel are college players, so in January and February with the Sigerson (Cup) we'd be hoping there is some arrangement done that these lads don't come under the stress that I had last year where I played 11 weeks in a row or something like that."
Asked if this was an error on his part, he admitted: "It probably was, but I felt I was playing well and I was enjoying it and had momentum.
"The reason I did it was the year before, after we won the All-Ireland, I went away to Australia and I didn't end up playing until the end of the league. It felt that summer that I wasn't at my best because I hadn't played all year. I felt I'd lost momentum.
"And I wanted to build up momentum all year so I said to Jim (Gavin), 'I want to play in every game I can' ... I play well when I'm playing ball, when I'm practising and kicking. So that's why I played, and I probably overdid it."
Brogan was speaking at yesterday's Conrad Hotel launch of Dublin's new sponsorship deal with insurance giants AIG.
As part of the launch he was sporting the new Sky Blue (albeit of a slighter darker hue) jersey ... his New Year appearances in the county colours may be curtailed, but not too much, he hopes.
"I will probably pick and choose my battles, hopefully," the St Oliver Plunkett's man ventured.
"But I still want to play as much football as I can, because there's no substitute – nothing beats playing football games."
A curious statistic from this year's championship is that Brogan was taken off during each of Dublin's three Leinster outings, as well as during those fraught closing stages of the semi-final classic against Kerry – despite his success against ó Sé that day.
"Obviously you never want to be taken off. I've had a great career with Dublin so far, and I've always been there or thereabouts and haven't been taken off that often.
"But these things happen," he reasoned.
"The guys on the line are so good and make such a difference when they come on that, if you're not on song every day, some lads can do the job just as well as you.
"That's what we expect as footballers, and that's why Jim has got such a good buy-in from the players. No man is over the team and whoever is on form gets the jersey on the day – and if you're not doing the business, next man up.
"But the year ended great for me, I played a big part in the final, and for me personally I did my bit for the team and that's all you can ever do," he concluded.