It’s the evening of February 8 in Innisfails GAA club and Bernard Brogan is flying.
Rested the weekend before against Tyrone having set up two goals and created the openings for another two chances in Dublin’s Division 1 opener against Kildare a week earlier, he has been informed by Jim Gavin that he will be on free-taking duty for their upcoming game with Donegal.
Everything is beginning to come together.
Being a 65th minute substitute in last year’s All-Ireland final win didn’t sit well with him and he told Gavin he wanted to play more this year.
He would have to earn it but all the right noises were being made. He sacrificed the team holiday to get into better shape. His body mass was down. He was ready.
“I was pushing myself,” he reports now. “Maybe that was part of why I broke down.”
But Brogan’s tale of woe is like most other cruciate stories — one of slight readjustment before a dreaded pain.
“And I just caught a ball, lost it in the floodlight and tried to readjust the body to see the ball, catch it over my head — and just landed awkwardly and rolled the knee.”
A cruciate victim at 19, Brogan was optimistic that he hadn’t damaged his left leg as there wasn’t the same noise or sensation.
He even informed Gavin not to discount him for the Donegal game. But an MRI scan the following morning confirmed the worst.
Then 33, now 34, Brogan assessed his options. Avoiding surgery came to mind first and there was a close example there in Michael Macauley last year but research suggested he couldn’t avoid going under the knife.
“Michael Darragh Macauley and a couple of other people that have got through the rehab, they didn’t know about it. They kind of had a sore knee and played on, played another game, get a scan and see this isn’t right, and it’s ‘oh, you’ve no cruciate’.
“That’s the difference in where there’s an incident and there’s just an injury, a soreness. Anyone who has had the incident has broken down.
"This is from the couple of physios I’ve talked to so it’s not gospel, but the information that I had says anyone who has had an incident has broken down within two months.
"Eoghan O’Gara, my cousin James Brogan, loads of people have tried to rehab it and broken down after two months.”
After opting for surgery Brogan spoke to Gavin again about his chances.
“I sat with Jim, it was just over five and a half months to August, and he said, ‘That’s a time for you if you’re going to impact on the team’.
“The team is obviously going to move on, it’s rolling and moving well, so first of all I need to get back out on the pitch, then I need I to get fit, then I need to show that I’m worth putting in there over some other lad.
“So there’s those challenges, albeit I’m nowhere near them at the moment, my goal is to get back on the pitch running and that’s my next goal. I’m breaking it down into small bite-sized goals.”
The suggestions in the media that he might have kicked his last ball for Dublin inspired him.
“Yeah, that gives me energy,” he admitted. “I love that.”
Having had fellow cruciate victim Jack McCaffrey as a guideline, Brogan is pleased to say he is two months ahead of schedule.
The support from his team-mates has been phenomenal. While he has been following best practice.
“I’m doing all these little things that will help me down the road. Doing things like visualisation… any kind of angle I can get to reduce the time at the far end when I come back to it.
"There’s some good research on the mindset piece and visualising the movements that you’re going to do on the pitch, the pivots, the turns, that when you come around to them, because with the ACL there’s a high potential for recurrence, your confidence to do some of the movements are down.
“So I’m doing anything that will help and speed things up once I’m back on the pitch.
“Obviously time is not my friend on this, so everything has to go really well and I’m ahead of schedule. If it keeps going the way it’s going, I’m still aiming for August. That’s my carrot, that’s my goal.”
Meanwhile, Brogan’s team-mate Cian O’Sullivan hopes to be back training soon but won’t put a timeline on his return from shoulder surgery.
“The rehab is going very well, ticking all the boxes. Hopefully I’ll be back shortly.”
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