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Sunday 17 November 2019

Brogan's missing medal

The '08 Dublin final reminds us how fickle team sport can be

Bernard Brogan playing for Plunkett’s in the 2008 Dublin SFC final replay
Bernard Brogan playing for Plunkett’s in the 2008 Dublin SFC final replay

Last Thursday, scrambling the memory bank for an article on Bernard Brogan's top five displays in Sky Blue, one performance kept trespassing our thoughts.

Only one problem: it came for St Oliver Plunkett's/Eoghan Ruadh.

As a consequence, we didn't include the 2008 Dublin SFC final replay against Kilmacud Crokes, even though it still ranks among the most magnificent individual efforts that Brogan has produced during his decorated career.

On that October Bank Holiday Monday, Bernard was mesmeric. He tallied 0-10, seven from play. The fact he was being shadowed by Paul Griffin, one of Dublin's stickiest markers of that noughties era, underlined just how good he was.

And still it wasn't enough: after 50 minutes his club led by three … but then two fisted goals, the first shrouded in some controversy as to whether it had crossed the line, turned the replay on its head.

And so, despite an injury-time free from Brogan, bringing his night's haul into double-digits, Kilmacud held on by 3-6 to 0-13.

And five months later they were All-Ireland champions.

As our Herald intro par noted: "For Michael Meehan, read Bernard Brogan. Sometimes even the most staggeringly accomplished performances result in all the bouquets but none of the booty."

The previous August, Meehan had scored 0-10 for Galway in a quarter-final tour de force against Kerry - and lost. Now history was repeating itself in Parnell Park.

Brogan's Dublin retirement didn't qualify as a surprise given that he is 35, been reduced to a bit-part role, and, well, has won it all. But not quite.

Even as he walked off the inter-county stage, part of us felt a pang of regret for the one big prize that eluded him. One he would surely savour almost as much as those seven Celtic Crosses.

You see, Brogan has never won a county senior medal. And given that Plunkett's have been cast adrift in recent seasons, it's hard to conceive him completing the jigsaw in his autumn years.

They finished bottom of their SFC round-robin group both this year and last, and only preserved their top-tier status at the weekend thanks to a goal from Bernard (who else?) in their relegation play-off victory over St Sylvester's.

The Michael Meehan comparison is noteworthy on several levels. Both he and Brogan were gifted scions of famous footballing families. Both were born in 1984.

But while Meehan burst onto the county scene as a teenage prodigy, his career was ultimately blighted by injury and he would never get his hands on an All-Ireland senior medal - unlike his older brothers, Tomás and Declan.

Brogan, meanwhile, was a relatively late bloomer who went on to enjoy untold collective and individual success. But his failure to land that county medal reminds us all how fickle team sport can be.

Back in '08, Plunkett's were appearing in their first senior final: if Gareth 'Nesty' Smith's late howitzer had found the net instead of almost breaking the crossbar, they would have won the first day.

Not even Bernard's heroics could save them from replay defeat. "We'll be back," promised manager Dermot Kelly that night. But while Plunkett's reached the Dublin finals of 2011 and '14, they lost both narrowly - to St Brigid's and All-Ireland holders St Vincent's.

Meehan never got his Celtic Cross with Galway but after Caltra won their first (and only) Galway SFC title in 2003, they went the All-Ireland distance and their marquee sharpshooter was Man of the Match in the March '04 decider.

On the Sunday just gone, we witnessed Ratoath in their first Meath senior final … and their lightning fast attack, led by the Wallace brothers, Eamon and Joey, grabbed their shot at history with gusto.

What does any of this mean for all those Thomas Davis players looking forward to their big day against Ballyboden St Enda's this Sunday? Perhaps nothing at all.

Except this: the Tallaght club haven't been near a Dublin SFC 'A' final for 28 years. Back in 1991, as they completed three-in-a-row, Davis probably thought that they would stay challenging forever.

It doesn't always pan out that way. Just ask Bernard …

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