Brosnan takes the middle ground

Jim O’Sullivan talks to Kerry’s Eoin Brosnan about his switch to midfield to deputise for Darragh Ó Sé in Sunday’s All-Ireland football final.

FIRST, a fact. Eoin Brosnan enjoys playing at midfield. It’s where he will once more fill in for Darragh Ó Sé in Sunday’s Bank of Ireland football championship decider with Mayo in Croke Park. His Dr Crokes club position is in the half-forward line, where he has mainly played with Kerry since making his championship debut three years ago.

But suggestions that he doesn’t like playing anywhere else are unfounded.

In relation to his selection at midfield, he points out it would have been his favourite position up to last year. Yes, it is more difficult to play there, he agrees, one reason being that there is less scope to improvise, to be creative. But at the same time, it has never caused him any problems.

Lining up to face kick-outs is a discipline imposed on half-forwards, he points out. And while he readily admits that he’s not one to pull a ball out of the clouds, he doesn’t feel it limits him.

“There’s a view that if you’re not ‘high fielding’, you’re not doing your job. But I don’t think that’s the case. A lot of midfield play is about linking, setting up scores, getting on the ball and breaking the ball - different things like that. High catching wouldn’t be my forte at the moment - I have to make up for it in other ways and I think I can do that.”

Known for scoring a few trademark goals - most recently at a vital stage of the Munster final replay in Killarney - the trainee solicitor acknowledges the benefit of linking up with club-mate Colm Cooper, whom he lauds for being unselfish and responsive to his team obligations.

“One of the big pluses in his game is that he looks for a player before he will take a score. He’s not a selfish player. You’d often see those players who knock up big scores, but they might be a bit more selfish. Gooch is first and foremost a team player. I know that from playing with the Crokes. He often sets up a lot of scores. Hopefully, something might come off in the final.”

Brosnan, a county championship medallist both with Crokes and UCC (like his father Niall in 1973), had his first game with the Kerry seniors in the League in 2000. And his championship debut was the following season. He was only 21 at the time and following the 2-14 to 0-5 defeat by Meath in the All-Ireland semi-final, he was embroiled in the controversy which followed his appointment as captain for the game.

The big deal made of it at the time upset him for a while, he pointed out, but team-mates, family and his club rallied round him.

“People knew that was not the reason we lost by 15 points. It was one of those days when everything went wrong,” he adds.

He was at home studying for exams at the time. Shortly after that, the 9/11 attacks occurred. That put everything into perspective.

Holders Tyrone and Galway were his two fancies earlier in the season, feeling Galway would “really rattle a few cages”. And even after a difficult first-half against Mayo in the Connacht semi-final, he still expected them to advance. The way they were “blown aside” instilled a greater respect for John Maughan’s team. Later in their campaign, when Tyrone promised a recovery following a Stephen O’Neill goal, he gained a better appreciation of their potential.

That day, he says, “they put the foot down and drove through” the reigning champions.

“Some people say they gave a bad performance against Fermanagh but conditions had a lot to do with it. We watched the last 20 minutes of the replay and Fermanagh looked like the team that would come through. Trevor Mortimer came up the field and really showed heart and spirit for Mayo. I think he was the one who turned the game in the last 20 minutes. They are a formidable side.”

Kerry’s passage to the final, he accepts, was defined by the two games they played against Limerick in Munster. In particular, he remembers the replay as “nightmarish stuff” after Limerick had the ball in the net from the throw-in. And he believes that instead of winning comfortably in the All-Ireland quarter-final, they would have faced an uphill struggle if Dublin had finished off one or two goal chances in the first-half.

“Derry weren’t really great. They had their strengths, especially two very good forwards. But the rest of the attack was limited enough.

“They had reached their limit to get that far.”

Winning Munster was vital, he feels, because after the manner of their defeat to Tyrone last year it would have opened up old sores and created new doubts.

“Losing to Tyrone was a shock, because of the intensity and ferocity of their play, the hunger they showed. They won every 50/50 ball. Players started questioning themselves after the game.

“That’s why there was such an uproar. That’s not the way Kerry football should be. It should be up there with the best.

“Growing up, after the Golden Years teams, it was almost as if Kerry had a divine right to win All-Irelands. And that’s how the public felt. A lot of work has been put in over the last 18 years, but we have had only three wins, not for lack of effort - every other county has caught up.”

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