It’s 2002, late summer. Alan Brogan has been everywhere all championship. His emergence onto a Dublin team swaggering through Leinster under Tommy Lyons has captivated a public drawn in further by his famous dad Bernard and the bridge it builds to the glorious ’70s.
The one time he goes missing is at the Dublin media day, organised in Goblet Pub, just down the road from Parnell Park in Donnycarney. When word goes round that Brogan is in the vicinity, he bounds back down the stairs and out the door before the pack catch the scent.
Fast forward 13 years and his role has been somewhat reversed.
Now it is his appearances on the pitch that have been fleeting.
Aged 33, he has had to come to terms with an unfamiliar role as an impact sub, but he no longer gives in to the urge to flee the scribes and instead sits down for a chunk of an afternoon to chew the fat ahead of his third All-Ireland final.
This may or may not be the last time we see him in that blue jersey — that decision will be made in the weeks after Sunday’s adrenalin is rinsed from his system — but he gave a glimpse against Mayo in the semi-final replay of what it is we will miss.
It was a simple pass: A fisted effort over the heads of a few defenders for the onrushing Brian Fenton whose miskick across goal was diverted to the net by a sliding Bernard Brogan in what was a pretty damn good impression of Gary Lineker.
Alan Brogan describes it all as a “bit lucky” and it undoubtedly owed a deal to good fortune, but the pass he played to set the onrushing midfielder free was the sort of quick thinking and rapid execution which is all too rare in the modern era of massed defences.
“I think the role that I play is to maybe come in and steady guys down and be a calming presence. Other guys are maybe different. Mick Macauley plays a different role, Kevin McManamon obviously has a different role, he’s a real goal threat each time he goes in.
“I’m maybe not as much of a goal threat. Like, every guy has their own strengths and it’s about playing to your strengths as much as possible to help the team get back into the game or close out a game or whatever the case may be.”
His contribution two weekends ago turned the game on its head. When he entered, Dublin were reeling. After that first goal they were riding the crest of a wave that would see them outscore Mayo by 3-4 to 0-2 and claim their place in the decider.
For Brogan it will be a third All-Ireland final, though the first brought more “relief” than joy after the gap to 1995 was finally closed in his 10th year on the panel. He played no part two years ago, having only returned to fitness in August.
He sometimes reminds his younger colleagues of that interminable wait for a first Celtic Cross, but he realises the current bunch are different. For them, no September is complete anymore without one Sunday spent together in Croke Park.
The instinct is to suggest this one will be more special for Brogan. If it is to be his last game, then what better stage from which to depart than an All-Ireland final against Kerry and everything that the counties’ umbilical relationship brings with it?
It’s not a bait he lunges for, despite all the nostalgia and the fact that his mother Maria is a native of Listowel, though he admits the defeats of Kerry in 2011 and 2013 were vital in changing the dynamic between the rivals.
“Obviously from the point of view of winning medals it is. In 2009 they beat us well, in 2006 I think they beat us well. In the early stages of my career, they certainly had the better of us. In 2011, everyone knows that match could have went either way. They were four up with whatever left and we managed to claw our way back into it, so I think next Sunday will be no different. Two very good footballing teams will go hard at it and I don’t think there’ll be much in it at the end of the day.”
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