Bernard Brogan: The finisher who was a cut above

Every GAA supporter will have their own memory, their own keepsake of a ‘Berno’ moment.

Bernard Brogan: The finisher who was a cut above

Every GAA supporter will have their own memory, their own keepsake of a ‘Berno’ moment.

The corner-forward who kept the Hill’s dreams alive of seeing Sam again.

Brogan was a scoring machine. Give him the ball and he almost always delivered. If Dublin could muster a mean defence combined with fast, quality kick-passers, then the Dublin fans might cheer again. And soon, it came to pass.

Number 15 was his preference but in the 2007 Leinster final against Laois, Bernard wore the number 12 jersey. Approaching half time, Laois were ahead by four points, but in a two-minute cameo, Mark Vaughan and Bernard Brogan scored a goal apiece into Hill 16, to put daylight between the teams.

Bernard’s goal was his textbook side-footed slider under the advancing Laois goalkeeper Fergal Byron.

The majority of forwards will try to belt the ball into the back of the net, but Bernard Brogan, akin to Colm Cooper, were polished poachers. He was a ‘finisher’ and he would spend the next decade showing the Hill and the country his full array of shooting.

Finishing moves are what keeps the scoreboard ticking, and Brogan was always on hand to palm a goal or get convert a rebound off a post.

He would point one way and then jink the other, and he favoured receiving the ball on the move.

A slight glance at the posts and he’d serve up an eloquent fish-hook kick over his shoulders. Both shoulders, because he had two sweet feet.

He’ll be disappointed not to have had the opportunity to play with the ‘advanced mark’ as his remarkable scoring record could have been off the charts, such was his accuracy in front of goal.

He didn’t come from an elite development squad, a school’s hotbed, or a famed club nursery. Good genes from Mayo and Kerry might have started the process, but hours of hard work were spent in NUI Maynooth, DCU, and St Oliver Plunketts perfecting his now accustomed catch, swivel, and score routine.

It sounds easy, but to maintain your balance and composure and strike the ball on the sweet spot in the big matches is what made him a cut above the rest.

A big match? How about the 2011 All-Ireland final where he pitted his wits against Mark O’Shea. The outcome? Six points (0-4f) and his first Celtic Cross.

Bernard Brogan would continue to deliver in the big matches and the personal accolades would continue to grow.

He developed his game on his coach’s instructions. He didn’t have to, but staying the same would have meant a shorter playing career.

The finisher soon started to create space for others, to provide the assists and to work unselfishly off the ball for others.

The others? His team-mates who started his process of becoming the finisher.

His team-mates would have rallied around him in his days of injury rehabilitation and his family would have done the same in his days of self-doubt.

It was his fierce determination in pursuit of winning back his number 15 jersey that will surely continue to inspire countless athletes around the country for many years to come.

While Con O’Callaghan is steering his way to becoming the ‘King of the Hill’, that title still belongs to Bernard Brogan.

The billboards all around Croke Park still have Bernard’s picture, along with the aforementioned caption.

My favourite Berno moment? The 2017 Leinster final against Kildare.

Bernard was introduced as a sub, and boy did he show us he was still razor-sharp. Five shots, five points.

Both feet. A defender’s nightmare. Push him to the line, he scores with the left. Let him turn you, he fires over with the right.

Resilient, substance, and class in abundance.

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