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Dublin: 11 °C Wednesday 23 October, 2019

'When I turned 30 I had one county championship, and when I'm retiring now I've eight'

Eoin Brosnan called time on his senior club football career with Dr Crokes earlier this week.

EX-KERRY STAR EOIN Brosnan didn’t want his senior club career to end like this.

Colm Cooper and Eoin Brosnan celebrate Eoin Brosnan and his Dr Crokes teammate Colm Cooper. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

If events had unfolded differently in Croke Park last weekend, Dr Crokes would be toasting a second All-Ireland title in two years. 

But a 12-point trimming against the defending champions Corofin will have to do as Brosnan’s parting note, making his introduction in the 52nd minute of the tie.

It was always his philosophy to continue playing for the club as long as he felt fit, but over the last few seasons, Brosnan realised the end was drawing near.

He knew he was on borrowed time after they ended a 25 year-wait for All-Ireland success in 2017, and on Tuesday morning this week, he sent a text around to the group.

“Obviously fellas were very disappointed on Sunday and fellas stuck together on Monday,” Brosnan tells The42. 

“I was back at work on Tuesday and when it’s the start of a new year, I thought I may as well let everyone know.

You can’t wait around really, we’ve county league this Sunday again so the team is probably going to get together maybe Friday evening and we’ve club championship again two weeks after.”

Brosnan is finishing up his senior football days at 38, the same age as Corofin’s Kieran Fitzgerald. 

Brosnan says the pair began their inter-county careers at a similar time, as he casts his mind back to 2001 when Fitzgerald lined out at corner-back for Galway as they lifted the Sam Maguire for the second time in three years.

Kieran Fitzgerald lifts the Andy Merrigan Cup A delighted Kieran Fitzgerald after Corofin's victory. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

For Brosnan, his inter-county career yielded three All-Ireland crowns before he announced his retirement in 2013. 

The parallels between the two filtered down to club level as well, with both Fitzgerald and Brosnan enjoying plenty of success with their local sides.

Their paths diverged last Sunday afternoon however, as Fitzgerald celebrated back-to-back All-Irelands with Corofin at the expense of Brosnan and his team-mates. 

“Sport is a bit of a drug and Kieran is obviously a huge club man,” says Brosnan, who takes some comfort from the fact that Dr Crokes were simply defeated by a stronger outfit.

“I’d be a proud Crokes man as well. The one down side from the latter part of my career was that there were a few injuries and what not.

“But the last two years, I’ve been pretty much injury-free and I really enjoyed my football then. Every game was a bit of a bonus really.”

Colm Cooper’s Laochra Gael episode was aired last weekend to coincide with the All-Ireland club finals.

Old footage shows a youthful Cooper in his early days of donning the black and amber of Dr Crokes. The Kerry legend also refers to his ‘street football’ days where he developed an instinctive style of playing football as well as the joy of being the club’s mascot when they won their first All-Ireland back in 1992.

It was a similar upbringing for Brosnan, who was just 11 years old when he went up to Croke Park to cheer on his club to victory.

I remember going up on the train and Colm was a couple of years younger than me so he was eight at the time”, Brosnan recalls. “I actually watched that [Laochra Gael] late on Tuesday after the come down.

“There were a lot of great memories, I suppose a lot of our careers would have crossed over between Crokes and Kerry.

“Colm was always behind the goals kicking the ball out and he was very slight. I think we won an U15 county championship. It was a real bonus to win county, we knew were on the right direction.”

The Dr Crokes team were forced to endure many years of heartache before tasting All-Ireland success again. Brosnan played a key role in the team that contested the 2007 All-Ireland final, where Armagh’s Crossmaglen brought them to a replay before edging them out at the second time of asking.

Three consecutive All-Ireland semi-final defeats followed between 2012 and 2014 and Dr Crokes subsequently went through a barren period in the Kerry championship.

Francie Bellew, John Donaldstown and Eoin Brosnan Brosnan in action against Crossmaglen in the 2007 drawn All-Ireland final. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

They seemed to be regressing and it looked as though an All-Ireland title would not be their fate. Brosnan admits that he thought their opportunity had passed them by, but he never considered retiring. 

And his patience was rewarded with that 2017 triumph.

“There’s plenty of people who told me they retired too early and they’d have regrets that they could have gone on a little bit longer,” he says.

“I still felt that while I was fit, I was competitive enough to be playing.

We were knocking on the door for a long time. I thought we might have missed our boat. Winning in 2017 was absolutely unbelievable. 

“After losing three semi-finals, we went two years without winning a county title in Kerry and I suppose at that stage, I was 36 or 37.

“I said , ‘listen my days of winning All-Irelands are gone.’ It would have been a regret. I know Colm called it ‘The Toughest’ and I suppose he was the flagship of the competition in that he’d had all these knocks and he kept coming back.

When I turned 30 I had one county championship, and when I’m retiring now I’ve eight. There was certainly a long time where success didn’t come that easily.”

Dr Crokes have Division 2 and Division 5 teams for Brosnan to slip into, but he’s not making any plans to further his Gaelic football career at the moment.

He runs his own solicitor firm, which he took over from his father in 2016. Balancing his hectic professional life with the demands of a GAA player certainly brought several challenges for Brosnan over the years, but working in Killarney allowed him to maintain his commitments to both.

He has ambitions of fitting in a few 5km and 10km runs in the future while golf is another sport that he’s passionate about. Brosnan’s handicap is currently at 13 but he aims to cut that back to single digits inside the next 12 months. 

Brosnan also has a young family. Along with his wife Mary, they have five daughters aged between four months and 10 years. 

Eoin Brosnan celebrates Brosnan has plenty to look forward to in retirement. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

They were all in attendance at Croke Park last weekend and some of them have already started honing their craft with the underage teams in Dr Crokes.

“Annie will be 10 soon, Elizabeth is 7, Jane is five, Suzie is turning two in July and Maryanne is only five months old.

Maryanne was underneath the seats [in Croke Park] so she didn’t know what was going on. Annie was bawling and in floods of tears. She’s at the age where she realises what’s going on and how important it was.”

It’s rare that athletes get the chance to retire on their own terms, and after 22 years of service, Brosnan certainly didn’t get the exit from senior football that he wanted.

It was an unusual defeat for Dr Crokes too. They have often been involved in one-sided affairs where they cruised to victory, but on this occasion, they were the ones taking the punishment.

It’s not how Brosnan wanted to leave things but he can reflect on plenty of great days in Dr Crokes colours, something which their manager Pat O’Shea reminded everyone of after their defeat to Corofin.

“To win the last three counties, a Munster and an All-Ireland, we can hold our heads up high and be proud of our achievements.

“That’s what Pat said in the dressing room after.

“Obviously lads were very disappointed but that we had a lot to be proud of and to hold our heads up high after that effort.

“In an ideal scenario, we’d have won this week. That’s sport and life moves on. Everyone enjoys sport but there’s more important things. When you have to go to work and look after your family, they are the most important things.

“We enjoy sport but ultimately, it’s a past-time.”

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