Two days out from an All-Ireland final, Jim Gavin and Eamonn Fitzmaurice are putting the final touches to their matchday scenarios.
Both starting 15s are picked and management are preparing for changes either side will likely make.
How best might they counter the introduction of a Darran O’Sullivan or a Kevin McManamon?
It is both managers’ second final. For many of the players, it will be a third in five years.
They have learned things about how these players handle the big day.
Gavin and Fitzmaurice will want as many consistent pieces of the puzzle in place as possible, players they can rely on to produce a performance.
One of the constants Jim Gavin will turn to is Bernard Brogan. Bernard has long been one of the elite forwards and is arguably having his best ever year.
To date he has amassed 6-19, all scored from play. His shooting efficiency for points and goals in this year’s championship is frightening, scoring 19 of his 28 point attempts and finishing six of his seven shots for goal.
We are now seeing his game evolve and mature with regard to his decision-making. At times in the past he may have had a shoot on sight mindset, but he now understands that mixing his shot selection and use of the ball makes him less predictable and harder to mark.
In years past, taking the frees would have been important to Bernard, because as a corner-forward it can be hard to get into games and early scoring opportunities as a free-taker can boost confidence and kickstart your personal display. He is now patient enough to trust that he can still contribute to the team and hurt the opposition enough from open play.
I have heard it said that in relation to football Bernard lives to win. He doesn’t live to win, he lives to compete. It’s an important distinction. He has been part of Dublin senior squads since 2005 and while it was 2008 before he made an impact in championship football it was clear from his early time with the squad he had a relentless effort and desire to improve. He works on his game and, importantly, is willing to take critique and feedback to ensure he maximises his abilities.
If you take the crucial point he scored in the second half of the replay against Mayo, where he created a split-second to fire over by bouncing the ball from his right hand away from the defender at an angle to be able to take it in his left hand. A perfect example of a score using a skill that may seem trivial but is the kind of thing that allows top forwards get high percentage shots off.
Many players are capable of kicking points and creating goal chances, especially in early round championship games against inferior opposition. The incredible thing about Bernard is he does it against the great players in the big games. He has made great defenders look average and is regularly marked by the best defenders. If you think of big Dublin performances outside of Leinster in recent years — Cork in 2010, Donegal and Kerry in 2011, Kerry and Mayo in 2013 and both Mayo games this year — Bernard has produced high calibre displays that truly underline his consistency.
There is also his willingness to work and pressurise defenders coming out from defence. Pat Gilroy demanded a high work ethic from all his forwards. Bernard was often highlighted as the player to lead that. The way Pat challenged Bernard always reminded me of that line in Remember the Titans: ‘You want to act like a star? You better give me star effort’. Bernard’s desire to make hard runs was never in doubt but he needed to be as determined when other teams had the ball.
Many aspects of Sunday’s game are up for debate. For me, whether Bernard Brogan produces a big display isn’t one of them.
Bernard scoring average well up
Bernard Brogan may have been the most visible Gaelic footballer for a few years there but this year he’s been seriously underrated.He’s scored 6-19 this summer, all from play, giving him an astonishing average of 1-3 a game.Last summer he scored only 2-6 from play.
Even in 2013 when he’d win an All Star he’d scored 3-19 in all, a full three goals less than he’s scored already this summer.In 2011, another All Ireland and All Star winning year, he wouldn’t score a goal at all, just 29 points, 12 of which were from play.
In other words, he averaged just 0-2 from play that summer, a full 1-1 less than he has this summer.In all this has been his most electrifying scoring form since 2010 when he won Player of the Year and kicked at least four scores from play in five of his seven games that summer.
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