It’s a remarkable statistic that on his 51st Championship appearance for Dublin, Bernard Brogan finally scored outside of Croke Park
That was in the Leinster championship win over Carlow at O’Moore Park earlier this month, though, in truth, it was a watershed moment for Brogan for a more negative reason.
The veteran forward didn’t start the game, mirroring boss Jim Gavin’s decision to leave him on the bench for last year’s All-Ireland final replay, and the message that he’s now seen as an impact substitute was clearly made.
As things panned out, the unexpected 12-week suspension picked up by Diarmuid Connolly, allied to Brogan’s strong form when introduced against Carlow, may have changed that plan.
It is a fact though that, at 33, Brogan is not viewed as the invincible force he once was and the 2010 footballer of the year has accepted that he’s not a guaranteed starter any longer.
That point was hammered home to the four-time All-Ireland medallist before that replay against Mayo last year.
“Jim Gavin pulled me aside before the replay and said: ‘Yourself and Michael Darragh Macauley are starting from the bench. It’s something different that we want to do for this game,’” said Brogan. “I was massively disappointed. It was an All-Ireland. But I grabbed Michael Darragh, who was equally upset, and said to him: ‘The team’s going to be named now in five minutes, just step up high. When they look at you, because we would be two senior members of the group, just show no sign of weakness.’ That was just something I wanted to do.
“I just felt that if that decision was going to happen, then try to add as much positivity to the group in that situation. Did it do anything for the team? Maybe not, but I thought, for me, it gave me a boost. We were around in a circle when the team was named and you know yourself, lads look up for a reaction, but we agreed it was just a smile back at them and say: ‘We’re ready for this.’”
Brogan is a level-headed character, but he admitted he didn’t take such a mature approach to being dropped earlier in his career.
“I probably would have reacted a lot differently. In 2008 or 2009, calls were made that I would have been very annoyed about. I never go over the top, I’m not that type of individual, but there is that ego, when you’re younger and when you believe you’re the best in the business and you’ve every right to play.”
Brogan holds no grudges against Gavin, who has been nothing if not consistent with his, at times, ruthless team selections. Cormac Costello, Kevin McManaman, Paul Mannion, and Paddy Andrews have all, like Brogan, delivered at different times for Dublin over the years, yet can’t hold onto a starting place either.
“It’s just about getting the mindset right,” said Brogan. “There will be times you have to take a different role and that will be my biggest challenge after starting for so many years. It’s a different role this summer. I have to make sure I have the head space right for it, that I come in with the right attitude. I want to start, that is still my goal, and I was disappointed not to start against Carlow, but I’m long enough around the place to understand what’s needed and that me throwing my toys out of the pram isn’t going to help.”
Brogan made a strong impact against Carlow and kicked two points, so he could very well return to the starting lineup against Offaly or Westmeath in the Leinster semi-finals. If he does, it will be a victory for self-improvement and dedication, having redoubled his efforts in recent months.
“I feel in training that I’m much better able to get around the park now,” said Brogan. “I’ve shipped two or three kilos, just to make it a bit easier. The game 10 years ago was about strength and power, but now it’s about mileage. The middle eight players are doing 10 or 12km in 70 minutes now. So the game has evolved and you have to evolve with it and come up with something new. So I’ve given myself a new challenge this year.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved