Early last month, ex-Dublin All Star Ray Cosgrove responded to criticism of Bernard Brogan’s patchy form by claiming that Dublin’s talisman is ‘undroppable’. He’s not quite as certain now.
Criticism followed Brogan’s quiet afternoon against Donegal in the All-Ireland quarter-finals but Cosgrove was confident the ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’ cliche applied.
“He’s undroppable,” claimed Cosgrove, the 2002 Championship top scorer. “Rewind the clock back 70 minutes — he was unbelievable in the Leinster final. He was back to his best.”
Corner-forward Brogan didn’t quite deliver against Kerry either though, shooting two points — one laid on a plate for him by Michael Darragh Macauley, the other a fisted effort — and being replaced for the fourth time in five Championship games this season.
Compared to the 6-21 he scored last year — 6-20 of which came from play — his 1-9 haul so far in 2016 represents a clear dip in form with blanks drawn against both Laois and Donegal.
It’s not quite panic stations, and it would be a big surprise if Jim Gavin actually dropped his gifted forward for Sunday’s All-Ireland final, but it’s far from the form which saw Brogan push for a second Player-of-the-Year award in 2015.
Even Cosgrove is beginning to get a little concerned, acknowledging that there’s pressure on the 32-year-old to perform.
“There certainly is now,” said Cosgrove. “I was on record after the Donegal game saying there is no way you could drop him because he has been so impeccable and it was just one below-par performance. He has two below-par performances now so he probably is looking over his shoulder at this stage.
“I still believe that Jim is going to pick him for the final but certainly he has to put in that big performance if Dublin are going to win.”
Gavin will hope that the sight of the green and red of Mayo inspires Brogan again. The St Oliver Plunketts/Eoghan Ruadh man top-scored in the 2013 final defeat of Mayo with 2-3 and registered 0-2 and 1-1 tallies in last year’s semi-final ties.
Cosgrove argues that Brogan actually would have scored a lot more in 2015 but for the close attentions of Chris Barrett.
The problem for Mayo is that Barrett has been dogged by a hamstring injury all year so starting him on Sunday specifically to mark Brogan again would be a gamble, regardless of Brogan’s form.
“I think Chrissy will go in,” said Cosgrove, whose parents are both from Mayo and whose uncle won All-Ireland minor and U-21 medals with the Westerners. “He did a very good job on Berno last year in the two games. Berno got his few scores but not a whole lot more. Chrissy gave him his fill of it.”
Mayo’s trump card heading into the final is that nobody really knows what to expect from them. Rochford has worked hard to make it that way, tailoring his lineups towards the specific threats of the opposition each day and leaving everyone guessing.
“Keith Higgins (could mark Brogan) either,” suggested Cosgrove.
“As far as I’m concerned, Zippy is having an unbelievable year. He is not going to make it easy for whoever he picks up. The other big question is who do Mayo play at full-back? Potentially there could be a mismatch there and they’ve got to keep in mind the pace of Paul Mannion probably coming in at some stage.
“Eoghan O’Gara also could come on and be a handful, he kicked a great score against Kerry and showed some composure. Kevin Mac will obviously be in there as well. So there is goals in Dublin if the right supply goes in.”
Cosgrove was finishing up his Dublin career when Diarmuid Connolly hit the scene in 2007 and has tracked the development of the St Vincent’s man since, from rough diamond to a polished gem.
“There’s still much more in him,” said Cosgrove, a selector with Wicklow this year. “But the left foot score in motion against Kerry, under the pressure they were under, 72 or 73 minutes on the clock, his weak foot, that was just a joy to behold.
“A lot of fellas probably wouldn’t appreciate how difficult that was. It wasn’t from a standing position, he was in full flight, bang! That’s what he does, that’s why he’s such a talent.
“It boils down to trust. Jim has the utmost trust in him. He knows that if Diarmuid doesn’t touch a ball for 10 or 15 minutes, something magical could still happen just like that.”
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