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Dublin: 13 °C Friday 20 July, 2018

‘I was 33 and broke my collarbone, there was no point in feeling sorry for myself’

Killian Brennan talks about recovering from injury and his return to St Pat’s, where he won the Premier Division in 2013.

Killian Brennan has made an immediate impact since rejoining St Pat's last month.
Killian Brennan has made an immediate impact since rejoining St Pat's last month.
Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

THERE IS A STUNNING photograph taken three and a half years ago that really stands out. Looking at it, it’s no surprise that Killian Brennan wanted to rekindle some old memories and return to the setting.

St Patrick’s Athletic had just won its first league title in 14 years and the side were in the aftermath of jovial celebration following the 1-1 draw at home to Derry City that clinched the Premier Division.

Anto Flood had scored a dramatic and sensational equaliser nine minutes from time and not long after the referee’s final whistle, Brennan was holding the towering piece of silverware aloft in front of the Shed End Invincibles (the club’s Ultras) at Richmond Park.

It’s an eye-catching image with the red glow of pyrotechnics contrasting against the shine of the league trophy. In Brennan’s first season at the club, as he himself admits a little under four years on, Liam Buckley’s side weren’t even supposed to be contenders for the title.

“When I came in in 2013 I don’t think we were expected to win anything that year,” he said speaking to The42 this week.

Killian Brennan holds the trophy up in front of Pat's supporters The photo in question: Brennan celebrates winning the 2013 Premier Division in Richmond Park. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“To go and win the league that season and win the FAI Cup after 50-odd years a season later — those were moments that really stood out in my career.

Even though I’m not a Pat’s fan and not from the Inchicore area you could see how much it meant to the supporters. It’s something that I’ll never forget.”

Brennan now finds himself back at Richmond Park again. The homecoming to his native Drogheda United at the beginning of 2017 did not go according to plan, having left Shamrock Rovers at the end of 2016.

Firstly breaking his collarbone on the opening night of the campaign against Galway United and then a breakdown in relations with the club’s management some months later meant it was not a happy period when it began with such promise.

The club had just been promoted from the First Division and, playing alongside his brothers Sean and Gavin, Brennan was looking forward to a season of optimistic endeavour at United Park in front of a familiar crowd.

The player is reluctant to go back into the details of his departure, but admits that the setback of the injury on his debut ensured his return did not get off to the best of starts.

When you suffer any kind of injury like that, whether it’s a broken leg or broken collarbone you’re going to be out for a substantial amount of time,” he explains.

“I think it just depends on the type of person that you are. It’s one of those situations where if you don’t let it heal and come back too soon and it happens again you probably have to hang your boots up. I couldn’t come back until I felt I was strong enough because of that.

Killian Brennan celebrates with The FAI Ford Cup Brennan with the FAI Cup trophy. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“I think it’s the longest injury I’ve sustained in my career. I’ve had a couple of previous ones that have kept me out for four or five weeks. But we were talking about three or four months before I was back playing.

“The team weren’t doing as well as we would have liked, and I wouldn’t be a great watcher of football either… I’d be pulling my hair out watching games, thinking that I should be out there helping the team. Knowing that you can’t do anything is difficult.

“I signed for Drogheda and was told two days later that three teams were going down to the First Division.

It was always going to be an uphill battle and the injuries didn’t help me. Four months out with a broken collarbone wasn’t ideal and playing for my local team with that injury made it a bit more disheartening.”

Rumours surfaced about an argument with assistant manager John Gill, which resulted in Brennan departing the club following the side’s defeat to Shamrock Rovers in June. The player says that it was better for everyone that he left.

“There were a couple of little things that I just wasn’t pleased with on a professional and a personal level. Some things didn’t sit right with me and some things were said that were unjustified.

Jimmy Keohane and Killian Brennan In action for Drogheda United alongside Jimmy Keohane of Cork City. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“All that kind of stuff should stay within the football club. If players or managers are unhappy we should all have a meeting where you get everything off your chest and we move on — whereas it was finger-pointing stuff and stabbing in the back stuff.

“I just wasn’t going to stand for any of that and that was the reason I left in the end.”

Brennan is regretful about how his time at Drogheda came to a close.

I feel bad for how it went. I signed a contract until the end of the season and I wanted to see that contract out. But circumstances led me to doing something that I didn’t want to, which was to leave.

“I felt that the situation that Drogheda are in this season in the table, we could have gotten ourselves out of it. I didn’t want to be leaving on a bad note, but it just transpired that I couldn’t take some of the stuff that was going on anymore.

“I wished all the lads the best of luck for the rest of the season. I’ve brothers playing for the team and family that go to the games, so I was sad to go. But it was just the situation that I was in. I felt it was best for everyone for me to leave.”

From the low of sitting on the sidelines for four months and the surprisingly early departure from United, came a positive and another phone call from St Pat’s boss Liam Buckley.

The pair have been in contact ever since his departure from the club in 2014. Contract negotiations failed at the end of that cup-winning season and again came to nothing at the beginning of 2017.

But an offer to come back to Richmond and rekindle some of those brilliant nights in front of the Camac was too good to resist for Brennan. He says he is happy to be back, but more than anything is happy to be fully fit and surrounded by a team all pulling in the same direction.

Whereas Drogheda have no wins in their last 15 Premier Division games, St Pat’s are on an upward curve with 10 points from a possible 12 since Brennan signed for the club five weeks ago. Fans are quick to admit he has made an immediate impact on results.

Killian Brennan A Saint once again. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“At the start of the season I spoke to Liam on numerous occasions. To be fair even when I signed for Shamrock Rovers I had spoken to Liam about a new deal but we just couldn’t get close to where I needed to be.

When Liam rang again, to be honest I was delighted to go back with him to Pat’s. I had met with him a number of times before and it did feel like a breath of fresh air.

“St Pat’s are after making a couple of signings and, to be fair, I think they were bottom of the league at the time I signed for them. But you could even see in training that there was that little bit of extra quality there.

“Myself and the new signings bumped the place up a little bit and obviously since we’ve signed the team went on to win three games in a row. We seem to be going alright, even though the draw against Sligo last week was two points dropped.

“We’re not out of the relegation battle yet by any means. But it feels good to be back at Pat’s playing nice football and getting the crowd behind you. I feel good and fit and when you have all of that going for you, and when you’re playing for the team and they’re playing for you, it’s all positive.”

The player believes that the club has underachieved in recent seasons. Since winning the league title in 2013 St Pat’s have dropped further and further down the table each year — from first, to third, to fourth, to seventh in 2016.

The club were bottom of the Premier Division when Brennan signed just over a month ago but are now on a run of form at a crucial point of the season.

Winning the FAI Cup in 2014 was a special moment for the player and when asked if avoiding relegation is the only priority for his new club, Brennan rebukes that another cup run is paramount and a necessity, but also an achievable goal for the club.

We have to see ourselves winning the Cup,” he says.

“For me, we have to think positively. Liam has brought in a lot of good players recently like Paul O’Conor and Ian Turner. I feel that we have a good squad so realistically we have to be looking at winning the Cup while also not taking our eye off the league where we need to be getting three points every week.

“I think the Cup is a good distraction for us, even though we are on a bit of a run in the league at the moment. I think it’s a good distraction for a lot of teams that haven’t been doing so well in the league.

I feel that we can beat anyone at the moment. Cork have lost some key players and even though they have looked unbeatable for the last six, seven months, for me they don’t look unbeatable anymore.

Kieran Sadlier with Killian Brennan Challenging Cork's Kieran Sadlier for possession. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“Dundalk don’t look unbeatable anymore, Shamrock Rovers don’t look unbeatable. For me, it’s a no-brainer about winning the cup. You have to feel confident that we can go and win it — not that we can just get to the quarter-finals or the semi-finals.

We have a good enough team to get to and win the FAI Cup final.”

It all begins this Sunday with a trip to the coast where Portmarnock are their opponents for the first round at Paddy’s Hill.

Brennan’s outlook is an optimistic one. He is reluctant to admit it, but the impact of the player, as well as signings like Dutch defender Jordi Balk have made all the difference in recent weeks for a club which has been teetering with the possibility of relegation this year — it would be a first in their 88-year history.

But an optimistic outlook has gotten Brennan to where he is. Breaking his collarbone coming towards his mid-30s could have been reason to throw in the towel completely and call it quits.

But a dedication to recovery and proper self-care means his ambition remains unfettered as he looks for new challengers at a familiar stomping ground where happy memories were made before and, he says, more can be made in the future.

“I had a good pre-season and felt fit and strong. It’s one of those where if you’re getting on a bit, it depends on the type of person you are. I don’t carry weight — you see some players where they’re 33, 34 and they’re not eating right and not looking after themselves.

I have a good diet and live quite well and because of that I feel that if I’m injury-free I can go on and play until I’m 35, 36 years of age. I was 33 and broke my collarbone, there was no point in feeling sorry for myself because I feel that I have plenty more in the tank left to give.

“I’m enjoying my football and I feel good and fit at the moment. I’ve got lads that I know from the last time I was here like Ian Bermingham, Christy Fagan and Conan Byrne. It was great to get back playing with them.

“Having a bit of banter with them has helped me kick back into gear after I was down with the injury and not doing so well at Drogheda.

“It’s where I want to be at the moment and it’s very hard to say — but if we can consolidate, stay up and have a good run in the Cup I don’t think I won’t be at Pat’s next year.”

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Aaron Gallagher

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