As individual performances go, the 2010 Footballer of the Year’s 1-10 display was one of the most complete seen in a national league game.
It came in a thrilling clash, in front of 21,156 souls, that was played at a pace and intensity close to championship fare and featured some breathtaking foot-passing.
Leading 1-8 to 0-8 at half-time, Brogan had contributed 1-6 and laid on the final pass for Cian O’Sullivan and Paddy Andrews’ points. He fisted over his 10th point in the penultimate minute of normal time, but it was his wonderful sideline effort in the 58th minute that had the Dublin support purring.
Jim Gavin spoke of him afterwards with little fanfare. “He’s finishing well but behind him a lot of the hard work is being done. The backs are transferring the ball quickly to him, he’s got into good positions. It was good to see Bernard finishing the scores.”
James Horan was more effusive in his analysis of Brogan. “Ger Caff[erkey] was on him and didn’t do a whole pile wrong.
“When you have a player the calibre of Bernard Brogan but when you give the guys kicking in the ball, particularly in the first half, the amount of time that they had, yourself could put in a pass and he’s going to score it so that’s where it came from.”
Horan may have been unhappy with the lack ofpressure put on Dublin’s kicks into their full-forward line but they fought back from three- and five-point deficits to go ahead by three themselves in the first half and then two after the break.
With an aggressive Colm Boyle and Lee Keegan excelling in their half-back line, they had recovered from a poor start where Dublin’s superiority in the middle was obvious. They started the second half the sharper team and when Ger Brennan was correctly red-carded in the 42nd minute for lashing out at Michael Conroy and Donal Vaughan, the initiative appeared to be handed to them.
Brennan could be facing a lengthy suspension although Gavin said he hadn’t seen the series of incidents clearly.
With Denis Bastick and Michael Darragh Macauley having been sent off over the course of their three previous games, Dublin are once again facing questions about their spring discipline.
“I haven’t been told what he was sent off for,” insisted Gavin. “The bit I saw was their six coming in after with high hands and then their 14 coming into Ger, that’s the bit I saw. Obviously, we’re going to have to review it now… it’s not as clear-cut as the other two.”
As rip-roaring as this affair was, it was also a tempestuous one too. Aidan O’Shea and Paul Flynn were embroiled in a running battle, the second time in seven days the pair had faced off after DIT’s Sigerson Cup final win over DCU.
Vaughan’s trip on Paddy Andrews provided Stephen Cluxton with a 47th minute penalty but Cormac Reilly elected not to book the Mayo defender, who was yellow carded for another incident four minutes later.
Cluxton’s shot was saved well by Kenneth O’Malley and the Mayo goalkeeper made another block on Kevin McManamon shortly after.
But after receiving a beautiful Ciarán Kilkenny pass, Dublin’s 2011 All-Ireland final hero found the net in the 50th minute with a clinical finish to put his team ahead for a third and final time. Having lost Brennan, 14-man Dublin outscored Mayo 1-5 to 0-4 for the remainder of the game. Gavin was pleased if realistic about the response when Mayo clearly faded in the final quarter despite spurning a couple of goal chances.
“The guys showed great heart and resolve so it was very satisfying to come away with a win, but Mayo put up a big fight to us there and maybe they are going through hard periodisation training. They seemed to get tired there at the end.”
That looked obvious but when the game was in the fire it was Brogan who shone. Taking his 33rd minute goal with aplomb after a clever one-two with Flynn, he had all but secured the man of the match nod.
With 1-23 in his first three league games, few are currently playing better football.
Scorers for Dublin: B Brogan 1-10 (5f, 1sl), K McManamon 1-1, P Andrews 0-2, C O’Sullivan 0-1.
Scorers for Mayo: J Doherty 0-6 (3fs), L Keegan, K McLoughlin (2f) 0-3 each, E Varley 0-2, A O’Shea, M Conroy 0-1 each.
DUBLIN: S Cluxton; K O’Brien, R O’Carroll, J Cooper; J McCaffrey, G Brennan, D Daly; D O’Mahony, C O’Sullivan; P Flynn, T Brady, C Reddin; C Kilkenny, P Andrews, B Brogan
Subs for Dublin: K McManamon for Brady (inj 20), D Nelson for O’Carroll (ht), B Cullen for Reddin (52), P Quinn for Kilkenny (61), N Devereux for McCaffrey (65).
Red card: G Brennan (42, straight)
MAYO: K O’Malley; G Cafferkey, K Higgins, C Barrett; L Keegan, D Vaughan, C Boyle; J Gibbons, B Moran; K McLoughlin, A O’Shea, R Feeney; E Varley, J Doherty, M Conroy.
Subs for Mayo: C Carolan for O’Shea (45), S O’Shea for Moran (52), T Cunniffe for Feeney (61).
Referee: C Reilly (Meath).