Bernard Brogan has offered a robust defence of Dublin’s gung-ho style of play, insisting their All-Ireland exit at the hands of Donegal shouldn’t sway their game plan for 2015.
Three-time All-Ireland winning Kerry manager Jack O’Connor was one of the first to question Dublin’s all out attacking approach in the wake of August’s semi-final exit.
Dublin conceded three goals and two as Donegal exploited an attack minded defence that was pulled badly out of shape at times.
Speaking the next morning, O’Connor said Dublin’s management “always stated they go out and play their own game at all costs — they might be revising that tactic this morning”.
But Brogan said criticism of Dublin’s attacking style is “easy to say in hindsight” and pointed out few questioned Gavin before the Donegal game when he’d guided Dublin to back-to-back league and Leinster titles and an All-Ireland.
“It’s pretty easy to say in hindsight, isn’t it?” said Brogan. “Hindsight is a great thing in football. Like, if we’d won that game, our system would have been the best thing ever.
“For me, it was a learning curve. I think we just need a bit more balance, a bit more patience. We were too aggressive going after a few scores. We were a bit too forceful in wanting to go forward and got caught out.
“Personally, I’m hoping the game plan won’t change and that we’ll stick to our principles, to the principles of Dublin teams we love.”
Dublin manager Jim Gavin has already claimed full responsibility for the tactical mistakes Donegal took advantage of,particularly in defence.
But Brogan said the blame should rest with the players who under-performed and he himself kicked a poor wide from a routine free at a crucial stage.
“We were missing kicks we’d never miss and that one in particular for me, I don’t know, it was down to a bit of panic after the couple of goals going in for Donegal,” he said.
“It was probably trying to force the thing. That’s when you miss them, when you’re trying too hard, I suppose.
“I think we’d all take responsibility for it, as players. Nobody stepped up and took the bull by the horns. The whole thing just fell asunder. Kevin McManamon, ‘Clucko’, Diarmuid, I don’t know, it all kind of fell apart.”
Those players will move on though and find form again. For manager Gavin, the general perception he was tactically outmanoeuvred on the sideline won’t be easily shaken.
“I’d never say it was the wrong way to play, the way we did,” responded Brogan.
“We were a little bit naive over a couple of long balls over the top. We were just pressing up because that’s how we play, that’s what we’re meant to do as a team.
“But we believe in that game plan and we believe in the structures in the team. I wouldn’t be blaming Jim for losing that game.
“I definitely wouldn’t allow him to take the blame for that. Even with the scores that went in, we had enough time to turn it around.
“But we as players didn’t do that.”
Brogan admitted he’s never felt so much energy at this time of the year to get back going again and prove all of Dublin’s doubters wrong.
“The hunger I have after this year is definitely greater than the hunger after either of the two All-Ireland wins,” said Brogan.
“It was important to enjoy the All-Ireland wins but this is a different sort of close season, this is a lot quieter and you’re just dying to get going again.”
Dublin’s drive for redemption will be aided by the return of key duo Ciarán Kilkenny and Ger Brennan after knee and Achilles injuries respectively that kept them out of this year’s Championship.
“It’s a cliche but it’s like two new signings,” said Brogan. “Two great operators and two great lads. It’s going to be great to have those boys back and there’ll be one or two others coming in I’m sure too.”
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