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Dedication, resilience and Skittles - Ben Brosnan still Wexford's 'main man'

The veteran forward remains the star of the show in this, his 16th campaign.

BEN BROSNAN WAS the name on everyone’s lips as Wexford stunned Offaly in the Leinster senior football championship last weekend.

kieran-dolan-blocks-ben-brosnan Brosnan in action against Carlow last weekend. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

The veteran forward rolled back the years on the inter-county stage, and hit 1-8 — 1-4 of that from play — in the Model county’s superb three-point, come-from-behind win.

Brosnan, 34, put a recurring hamstring problem behind him to shoot the lights out and set-up a provincial quarter-final date with Dublin.

While all eyes are on this evening’s return to Wexford Park [throw-in 6.30pm, live on Sky Sports Arena], that glittering individual display will live long in the memory.

It came as no surprise whatsoever to Brian Malone, though.

“No, it certainly didn’t,” Brosnan’s recently-retired team-mate and friend tells The42.

“I was delighted for him. He probably had a mixed league, he was in and out of the team, but we always know on the big days, you want the likes of Ben out there. On the big days, he does produce the goods.

“1-4 from play last week, that would be his average scoring really. I was delighted to see him put in that performance. He’s been doing that for Wexford for years, and it’s nice that he got a bit of attention there around the country.”

Malone, who slipped away from the inter-county scene quietly through the off-season, soldiered with Brosnan for many a year. While Malone made his inter-county debut in 2006, Brosnan’s bow came in 2008 — against Laois in the O’Byrne Cup.

ben-brosnan Brosnan on the ball in 2011. Source: Cathal Noonan

When the Castletown clubman first joined the panel, he was playing soccer too. In fact, he made 15 appearances for Wexford Youths in the 2007 League of Ireland First Division.

“He certainly wasn’t the player he is now,” Malone concedes, as a brilliant story enters his mind. “We did all get a laugh out of him when he first started. He probably wasn’t the best trainer.

We always refer back to maybe 2008 — he was running around training and he had a hoodie on, with the hood up, and in the front [pocket] of the hoodie, he had a packet of Skittles. He was eating them on the sly, and then one of the selectors let the greatest roar at him and the Skittles went flying everywhere!

“He got the fright of his life, and that was the end of the hoodies and the Skittles. He wasn’t always as dedicated as he is now, but I think he saw the error in his way.”

In Wexford, everyone learned from Mattie Forde. “One of the best forwards to ever do it,” Malone smiles, adding that Brosnan, in particular, probably absorbed more than others.

“Ben is kind of that player for the younger lads now,” he points out. “He’d be out on the pitch nice and early, probably the last lad to go [home] after taking frees and that kind of stuff.” 

The memories from down through the decades come flooding back; Brosnan now with over 150 appearances for the Model county under his belt in this, his 16th campaign at senior level.

“2011 was Ben’s standout year. That was the year he got nominated for an All-Star. As players started to retire — the likes of Mattie and Ciarán Lyng, Redmond Barry, PJ Banville, all these guys — more responsibility fell on Ben. He seemed to really like that, he took that on board and he liked being the main man, the centre of all attacks.

That’s the way it was, and for the last seven or eight years, he has been the main man. He’d be your go-to guy. When we’re in a crunch game or we need a score, Ben would be the lad we’d be looking for to get on the ball. The same with the frees — he has a fairly good conversion rate on his frees as well.”

In an interview with The Irish Mirror this week, Brosnan spoke about the behind-the-scenes work he has put in of late: from getting on top of the hamstring injury which ruined his 2021, to the gym training during lockdown which saw him drop from 80kg to 70kg and up his fitness levels.

Malone can certainly attest to that; the attitude much different now to that dual player with the long, blonde locks preoccupied by Skittles all those years back.

“While a lot of us might take a little bit too much time off in the off-season, Ben wouldn’t. Whenever training was called back in October or November, Ben was the first man there. And he’s always in the ear of the S&C coaches and the nutritionist.

wexford Brosnan (12) and Malone (4) both lined out together in the 2011 Leinster final defeat to Dublin. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“He almost gets one-to-one with the nutritionist, just to stay on top of it. The dedication he puts in from that end, in the last few years, has been unbelievable.

“He has been unfortunate with injuries. Other lads would nearly just pack it in, especially when they’re getting older but Ben has always come back stronger. He’s stuck with it, and then he goes and puts in a performance like he did against Offaly. Fair play to him to show the resilience to stick with it.”

Brosnan, this week, also spoke about “wishing for the past 12 months” to play against Dublin, after missing last summer’s 0-15 to 0-7 defeat to Dessie Farrell’s men.

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“These are the type of days you play for,” he said, with Malone echoing the sentiment as noise heightens around Dublin’s demise and the opportunity for a big crack at the heavyweights.

“I think the lads are shaping up well for it,” the Shelmaliers man reports. “I’ve been speaking to a good few of them and they’re very excited for it. This is the way they want to be. 

ben-and-benji-brosnan Brosnan with his son, Benji. Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

“We always wanted Dublin down in Wexford Park – we got them down last year but it was probably a bit watered down because of restrictions and there was only maybe 500 allowed in at it. This year, I’m expecting a lot more and there’ll be an even bigger buzz.

“The lads will be going in on a high after the Offaly game. Hopefully they put in a performance, and see how it goes.”

The counties are no strangers to one another, with some high-profile meetings played out through the years. The 2011 Leinster final is one which springs to mind; Wexford’s hearts broken, but Brosnan finished with 0-9 that day alongside now-manager Shane Roche in the forwards.

Malone, too was involved in defence. But now, he’s happy head to games in a different capacity, watching on and supporting his former team-mates, including Brosnan and his brother, Glen.

“Sure I couldn’t stay away,” he grins, “on a day like that. It’s not too often we get a team like Dublin down in Wexford Park.

“And [the weather in] the sunny south-east doesn’t let you down for championship football!”

The very same could be said about Ben Brosnan.

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Emma Duffy

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