Brogan Writing His Own Epilogue.

MUCH happened in the 16 months Alan Brogan missed with injury.
Dublin surrendered their All-Ireland title and then won it back again.
Pat Gilroy left. Jim Gavin arrived.

Ciarán Kilkenny, Paul Mannion and Cormac Costello emerged on to the Dublin forwards paddock; no ordinary kids either. Dean Rock re-booted and Paddy Andrews re-launched their respective inter-county careers.

Sixteen months out, at 32 years of age, trying to break back into a team that averaged 23 points across their All-Ireland win of the previous summer.

Even for Alan Brogan, it was a medium-to-long shot.

“He was coming back from a low base really because he’d missed so much of 2013. Plus, he’d missed four or five months of 2012 as well,” says former team-mate and close friend, Barry Cahill (pictured, inset), who wasn’t quite sure the extent of Alan’s healing until he scored six points from play in a League match in Derry back in mid March. “That sort of kick started his season,” he reckons.

In the victory over Monaghan in the All-Ireland quarter-final almost three weeks back, Alan Brogan was inarguably Dublin’s best forward.

He kicked three points from play and lasted until the 64th minute, a tribute both to his powers of recuperation, his scorching desire to play again for Dublin, and the wisdom of his management team.

“The trouble with groin (injuries) is that you conceal them,” says Mickey Whelan. “You want to play, you want to be in All-Ireland quarter-finals, semi-finals, Leinster finals … and so you tend not to over-react when you have them.

“And you go through pain barriers, which is wrong. If you see professional soccer players, as soon as they get a twinge, they’re down for treatment. We give out about that, but it’s probably right in terms of future use of those players. Stop it early, get the treatment early, it doesn’t become very serious.

“But it’s also testament to the way he was managed. The first aid people and the management team co-ordinating, not taking chances or taking risks in putting him back in too early.”

As it happens, he was free from that particular injury before last year’s All-Ireland semi-final with Kerry but then suffered a separate hamstring strain. Subsequently, he was one of Dublin’s named substitutes – albeit unused – for the final, and thus collected a second Celtic Cross last winter.

It was a League game against Kerry in Croke Park on the competition’s opening night, last February 1st, which probably ranked as the more significant development for Brogan.

Previously, neither he nor Gavin had confirmed that Brogan would actually be back in the squad this year.

He wasn’t even named in the team.

But on the same night that Paul Galvin retired from inter-county football, Brogan returned, started at centre-forward and played the 76 or so minutes.

He didn’t score, but won a converted free. He got on plenty of ball, but didn’t always find his man. Naturally ambitious in possession, Brogan never quite hit full velocity, but showed the confidence to double-back and take a second look whenever his inside forwards failed to generate space for themselves.

Now, he’s 3/1 for an All Star, his influence growing with each passing match, and a good performance on Sunday could nail it. “He probably understands his role that bit more in that being a link man, there’s not as much pressure on him to kick 1-4 or 1-5 in every game,” says Cahill.

“He knows that he has a lot of talented players around him and it’s up to him to try and get those players into play and try and link in as much as possible. The unavailability of Ciarán Kilkenny has probably helped him as well. It probably would have been difficult to keep everyone happy if Ciarán was still playing.

“Because Ciarán did well last year in his first proper year with the team and he probably would have looked to have developed even further this year. I think the type of role that Alan plays and the tactics that Jim uses, it’s well suited (to Alan).

“Bernard plays a bit better as well when Alan is in the team because they do have that sort of understanding from their club days.”

Team-mate Michael Darragh Macauley points out: “Alan has been there and doesn’t need to be there, he has kids that needs taking care of as well.

“It’s a huge commitment and the fact that he’s out there training as hard as he is, it just means the want he has to get out there and put on the jersey and win games. It’s huge for us and for young lads to see that drive, he’s a huge leader.”

Says Cahill: “Whether he can last the 70, 75 minutes is a different story but as we all know there’s a huge number of options to come in if needs be.

“Probably earlier in the year, he would have settled for a 20-, 25-minute role as a sort of cameo trying to come in when the game is in the melting pot and try and help everyone get over the line.

“But as he’s come on he hasn’t missed much training so he’s been able to go at it full tilt.”

So whether this does prove to be Brogan’s last year with Dublin or he opts to go on, he has, at the very least, achieved the thing that eludes most players and written his own ending.(The Herald)
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