Could Saturday be one final blowout in blue for Bernard Brogan?

Could Saturday be one final blowout in blue for Bernard Brogan?

Bernard Brogan is one of the founders of Peptalk, a corporate well-being company that counts big businesses like Coca-Cola, Zurich and Northern Trust as clients.

Yet at one of the company’s launches in early January, 2018, the Dublin footballer politely declined to speak to media, offering up an alternative list of interviewees.

“I’m keeping the head down, gonna just try to give it everything this year and see where it goes,” Brogan said that day as he chatted informally.

The rest of his Dublin colleagues were in South Africa on holidays but Brogan had opted to stay at home to improve his fitness and to hit the ground running in the Allianz league.

A couple of months shy of his 34th birthday, he was eyeing one final blowout in blue.

He looked sharp too in a seven-point opening round Division 1 win over Kildare, laying on goals for Dean Rock and Brian Fenton and scoring a point himself.

But just days later, in county training out in Innisfails, he went up for a high ball, got blinded in the floodlights and landed awkwardly, suffering cruciate knee ligament damage.

“I was in the best shape I’d been in for nearly a year,” Brogan later reflected. “My body mass was down, everything was going well. I was pushing myself. Maybe that was part of why I broke down.”

Almost 20 months on, Brogan is back but, undoubtedly, isn’t the same player. He’s only made three substitute appearances since in the league and Championship and turns 36 next spring. Jim Gavin doesn’t appear to believe in his ability to turn a game anymore and whatever the outcome of Saturday’s All-Ireland final replay, he’ll almost certainly retire.

The thing is, there could just be one more glorious twist in the Brogan career before he hangs up the boots. He’s currently sitting on 21-199 for 60 Championship games and despite not even making the 26 for the drawn game, the stars look to be aligning for him to potentially feature one last time and to get to that 200 career points tally.

Dublin’s bench hasn’t provided a single score in the last two games, just the third time this has happened in the 47 Championship games they’ve played under Gavin.

It did, admittedly, require a Hawk-Eye intervention to rule out Cormac Costello’s effort last Sunday week and Diarmuid Connolly was only marginally off with a long range effort but Gavin remains under pressure to add some punch to his bench nevertheless.

If we take John Small’s 58th minute withdrawal as a blood substitution, then Gavin only made four official changes during the game from a possible six, a first under his command in the Championship.

Again, it hints at a light bench, that when Gavin looks over his shoulder he isn’t necessarily won over by the options at his disposal.

This is where Brogan can come in next Saturday evening.

“I think you’ll see Bernard Brogan back on the panel,” former Kerry defender Aidan O’Mahony predicted, saying he refuses to believe that there isn’t 10 game-changing minutes in the former Footballer of the Year.

Brogan’s remarkable stats from a career that is now in its 13th season of Championship action - he was on the panel in 2006 also but didn’t play that summer - suggest as much.

Of his 60 Championship appearances so far, the St Oliver Plunketts Eoghan Ruadh man has scored in 51 of those, hitting the net in 16 matches.

He has returned 0-14 in total from 10 appearances as a substitute and only failed to return a score when brought on on four occasions.

His point against Tyrone in the Super 8s was his last for Dublin and proved he still possesses that poacher’s instinct.

What’s most impressive about Brogan, however, far more than his scoring ability or game intelligence, is his acceptance of a situation that many would have simply walked away from, as Paul Flynn did in May.

Brogan hasn’t started a Championship game since the 2016 drawn All-Ireland final with Mayo, his eighth appearances since all coming as an impact sub.

That’s three years of fighting his corner, with twin babies at home and a portfolio of business interests in tow.

Last December, he was in the gym at 6am almost every morning with his pal and former Dublin colleague Declan Lally.

For the entire month, shedding four kilos in weight. It was, he admitted, ‘a very emotional journey as well as physical’ though one he happily undertook.

“I still have a belief that I can get in to that team, that I can get out onto the pitch and make a difference,” said Brogan in May.

Now might just be Brogan’s time to make that difference and if he can get that 200th point, or even tog out for another All-Ireland final, it would surely make it all worthwhile. Then one of Dublin’s greatest servants would be in a position to pull the shutters down on an incredible career.

The alternative, of course - and we wouldn’t bank against it happening - is that Gavin shows his ruthless side and leaves Brogan in his civvies again on the biggest day of all.

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