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'That was the last game management believed in me as a player'

Bernard Brogan is our guest on the Warriors podcast this week to talk us through his low-key, high impact final weeks as a Dublin player.

Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

WATCHING ON IN civilian attire as his Dublin team-mates played out a draw in the 2019 All-Ireland SFC final against Kerry sparked a new lease of life in Bernard Brogan.

Before the throw-in, he had come to terms with his inter-county retirement. A winner from either capital or Kingdom would have confirmed the curtain on his 12-year involvement with Dublin.

By full-time, with both team’s scores reading 1-16, he was ready to throw everything at one final fortnight at the highest level.

At 35, he was well removed from being the star of a star-laden team. Now, he was intent on pulling out all the stops just to make the 26-man panel for the replayed final.

“I decided early on in my career that I’m not going to ‘leave when I’m on top’ or whatever they call it. I’m going to stay around as long as I feel I can add value. That’s what I tried to do,” Brogan tells Fintan O’Toole in episode 25 of The42‘s Warriors podcast, released today.

“There was a replay and I just threw the shackles off and went back to the way I would have attacked the game, go at the players, try and get scores.

“It’s gas, when I retired Jim (Gavin) said, ‘I wish you’d have done that six weeks ago’.

“I said, ‘Jaysus, if you had to have told me…’ I thought I was trying to play this pivotal role, bring other people into the game and add value.

“We live and we learn I suppose.”

Brogan had learned to play the role of squad man with Dublin in his later years at inter-county level. He pinpoints the 2017 NFL Final loss to Kerry as the match when he felt his status in the Dublin forward pecking order shift.

He started the 0-20 to 1-16 defeat and came away without a score to his name.

“The last few years I’ve fought tooth and nail to try and get any game time. After that Kerry game… I think that was the last game management believed in me as a player, maybe.

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“Maybe that’s harsh, but definitely (the last time they) saw me as a starter or a key man in the team.

“From there I was trying to prove myself. It’s very difficult to do that when you’re a bit older. Management, team-mates have seen you at your best and what you can do. When that trust or belief is fading because of age or games, it’s hard to change that mindset – that unconscious bias.

“I was saying to Jim, ‘you can’t judge me on my age…’

“Maybe I just wasn’t up to it at that stage. But as a high performance athlete, I believed I was. If I didn’t believe I was, there was no place for me there anyway.”

With a two-week delay put on his retirement by the 2019 drawn All-Ireland final, Brogan channeled that belief into his training ground intensity. And while he didn’t manage to get on the field for a glittering farewell, rekindling the fire in his belly and re-taking a place on the panel brought its own satisfaction.

“I believed if the game was tight I could have done a job, get in there to try and manufacture a shot or something. In that sense, there’s a sense of accomplishment.

“I was exactly where I needed to be, I was there on merit, there on ability.

“My age didn’t matter. I was there to help the team.”

To hear to the full interview and listen to the 24-episode back catalogue featuring the likes of Ronan Curran, Liam McHale, Ken McGrath, Johnny Doyle and Seanie McMahon, subscribe at members.the42.ie.

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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