Eternal Bernard Brogan continues to rage against the dying of the light

Jim Gavin has held Brogan on a leash so far in 2017 and it’s beginning to reap dividends.

THERE’S PLENTY OF life in the old dog yet.

Bernard Brogan celebrates after the game Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

While Con O’Callaghan announced his impending arrival as Dublin’s next great forward on Sunday evening, Bernard Brogan arrived off the bench to give a stark reminder that he’s going nowhere soon.

A stunning 12-point display suggests O’Callaghan will be the heir to Brogan’s throne as the darling of the Hill, but the veteran poacher bagged five points from play and looked about as sharp and fresh as he’s ever done in the sky blue jersey.

Brogan started his 11th Leinster victory on the bench, but Dean Rock’s black-card on 24 minutes handed him an early chance to impress. Like a greyhound bursting to get out of the traps, the gate lifted and Brogan roared into life.

He arrived onto the field with a chip on his should and a point to prove. Within five minutes he had his first point, although he might have Coldplay to thank for Ollie Lyons’ slip which gave him an uncontested shot.

It was about as flawless a display as the 33-year-old could have hoped for. Five shots, five scores. Three off the right, two off the left. Everything he touched turned to gold.

“The way we look at it is whatever part a player is asked to play, whether that’s finishing the game or starting the game, to me and my management and to the players themselves, it’s pretty irrelevant,” Gavin said of his display.

“I do understand that every player wants to get game-time. They train so hard to be on the pitch and represent the jersey and there are five players there today who didn’t get game-time and they’ll be disappointed as well but I know full well when we go back next week, they’ll be pushing hard to get game-time and pushing hard to push the squad on.

“But from Bernard’s perspective he did very well today and again that’s what we’re seeing in training and he’s playing his part very well.”

Diarmuid Connolly celebrates after the game Hill 16 favourite Diarmuid Connolly Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

While figures like Jimmy Keaveney, Alan Brogan, Barney Rock, Charlie Redmond, Kevin McManamon and Diarmuid Connolly are adored on the Hill to varying degrees, Bernard sits on top of the pantheon of beloved Dublin forwards.

He’s been an ever-present during Dublin’s most successful era of all-time, winning four All-Irelands, four All-Stars and picking up Footballer of the Year in 2010. He’s Dublin’s highest championship scorer, putting up an incredible 21-196 in 53 appearances.

A notorious big game player, Brogan famously bagged 2-3 in the 2013 All-Ireland final. In total he posted 2-12 across his five All-Ireland final appearances.

Bernard Brogan celebrates scoring a goal Brogan celebrates scoring a goal in the 2013 final Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

But it was his scoreless display in last year’s drawn decider against Mayo that suggested the St Oliver Plunkett’s/Eoghan Ruadh man was nearing the end. The replay was the first game of major consequence Brogan had failed to make the Dublin starting 15 under Gavin when fully fit.

“I’ve been very lucky to be an automatic pick for a long time,” he stated last October. “But I’m ultra-competitive and I love this Dublin team. It’s a very special group and I want to get back next year and prove to Jim that I can perform.”

Gavin sensed Brogan peaked too early last summer and, like much of the squad, set about timing his run better in 2017. He held Brogan on a leash for much of the league.

His 69th minute introduction against Kerry on 5 March was his seasonal debut, and he scored three points from play in his first start against Roscommon 20 days later. Brogan was back on the bench for the Round 7 win over Monaghan, but he finished with 1-1 after his 34th minute introduction to stretch Dublin’s unbeaten run to 36 games.

Bernard Brogan Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

The veteran failed to catch fire in the Metropolitans’ league final loss to Kerry. He played the full 70 minutes but failed to score and, in truth, was fortunate to survive the axe.

He finished the league with 177 minutes under the belt and 1-4 to his name. In Dublin’s open two championship games against Carlow and Westmeath, he featured in 47 minutes and chipped in with 0-3.

“I’ve been a starter for many a year,” Brogan said after the Carlow game. “I’ve a new challenge. I have to show Jim and the management team that I still have the legs to impact a game.

“I didn’t make my debut until I was 23. It took me two years to get into that Dublin team, so I know what it’s like to work hard, to toil and fight for a place. I’ve been here before and I’ll fight hard for it.

“Playing for Dublin is my dream. I’ve been lucky enough to play over 50 times in the championship. I’m hoping there’s many more days in blue for me.”

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Bernard Brogan with Ollie Lyons Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

The word from the Dublin camp was that Brogan was ripping it up in the internal training games.

“He’s trying to get everything he can out of himself,” said big brother Alan last month. ”In fairness I’ve been really impressed with him, really impressed with the shape he’s in.

“(He’s in) as good nick as I’ve ever seen him. It might end up being the same as my own situation where in my last year I came off the bench in every game.”

He probably accepts that he’ll play a bit-part role off the bench in his final season like Alan, but he’s not done yet.

Bernard Brogan and manager Jim Gavin after the game Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Bernard is well aware he’s still good enough to start on this team. After last Sunday, we all know too.

He was lively, fresh and energised from his introduction, but perhaps what was most impressive was his lung-bursting sprint from the full-forward line to claim a kick-out from Stephen Cluxton in the 70th minute.

Gavin has managed to bring the best out of Brogan as they enter the key stage of the season. His return to the starting line-up could come in the quarter-final, or he might even wait until a potential All-Ireland semi-final against Tyrone.

One thing’s for certain – he’ll have a major role to play in Dublin’s summer yet.

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Kevin O'Brien

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