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'He's playing with confidence' - Back from punctured lung and set to end four-year Kerry wait

Tony Brosnan is set to resume his inter-county senior championship career with Kerry.

Tony Brosnan in action for Kerry against Monaghan.
Tony Brosnan in action for Kerry against Monaghan.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

KERRY’S PATH TO the All-Ireland semi-final was pretty much assured when they threw on their last sub against Clare in late July 2016.

Eamonn Fitzmaurice had already sprung veterans like Aidan O’Mahony and Marc Ó Sé from the bench when he opted to hand out a senior championship debut in the 66th minute.

Tony Brosnan entered the fray, a sign of rapid progression with this senior graduation occurring a few months after he had come on as a late replacement in a Munster U21 final against Cork.

The 20-year-old sampled the top-level stage that day, and if he didn’t make the 26-man squad next day out against Dublin as some experienced faces returned, it wasn’t viewed as any critical setback in his career path.

He was young, talented and developing. 

But a wait of over four years for his next senior championship appearance for Kerry could never have been envisaged.

Brosnan’s run at the elite level is set to resume next Sunday, he’s in line for gametime against Cork in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

What happened in the interim?

A mix of factors. Injuries hit at inopportune moments. He damaged his knee in 2017 after the All-Ireland club final and broke his wrist in the autumn of 2018 during another busy club spell.

More recently his luck appeared to have deserted him again when puncturing a lung in a training session in early September, receiving hospital treatment and seemingly on the cusp of having another season written off.

Dr Crokes lost their star forward for a Kerry county semi-final, having more reason to bemoan his absence when they were pipped by Mid Kerry by a point in an extra-time classic.

But Brosnan rebounded to declare himself fit again for the football duties this year.

“He was a huge loss,” admits Dr Crokes’ Vince Casey.

“I’ve no doubt with Tony we’d have won because he was playing the best football he’s played. Thankfully he recovered. That was the original diagnosis, punctured lung. They felt the two ribs had been cracked but thankfully that hadn’t been (the case) after the second scan.

“Tony has always been a very good man to recover from injuries, to get back quicker ahead of schedule. He’s a great determination about him as well, he’s very committed really.”

tony-brosnan-tackled-by-gordon-kelly Tony Brosnan in action in the 2018 Munster senior club final. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

That level of perseverance has been needed to force his way back into the county reckoning.

After that Kerry cameo in the summer of 2016, pinning down a regular starting spot with Dr Crokes was tricky. When they won the county senior final that October, Brosnan came on as a 59th minute substitute. A full-forward line of Colm Cooper, Kieran O’Leary and Eoin Brosnan indicated the Killarney outfit already packed a serious attacking punch.

In the five-game schedule that yielded provincial and national crowns, Brosnan was brought on when every match was heading down the stretch. He popped over points against Kilmurry-Ibrickane and Corofin, then he was on the Croke Park pitch when the final whistle sounded against Slaughtneil to confirm they had secured the Andy Merrigan Cup.

“I think Pat O’Shea managed it very well,” recalls Casey.

“He wanted the lads to come in the last 20, 25 minutes when the game was going to be decided. Micheál Burns was in the same boat at that stage, they were coming on as subs.

“Ultimately at the time while they’re disappointed, that’s probably helped them as players as well. They had to come through in an established club team first to make it onto that team. Then getting into Kerry they knew how hard it was to work to move another level.”

For the 2017 Kerry decider Brosnan started and kicked two points against South Kerry but was back on the bench when they surrendered their Munster title to Nemo Rangers.

If there was a turning point, then perhaps it was September 2018 in Fitzgerald Stadium. Dr Crokes were smarting from a second round loss to Kerins O’Rahilly’s when they met An Ghaeltacht. Illness saw their maestro Cooper withdraw beforehand, Brosnan filled the vacancy and was in stunning scoring form as he amassed 1-14 including ten pointed frees.

He retained his spot to land a brace of points in the county final win over Dingle and then accelerated away for the winter and into the following spring.

  • Munster quarter-final: 0-7 v Moyle Rovers
  • Munster semi-final: 0-4 v St Finbarr’s
  • Munster final: 0-8 v St Joseph’s Miltown-Malbay
  • All-Ireland semi-final: 0-6 v Mullinalaghta
  • All-Ireland final: 0-5 v Corofin

There may not have been a successful culminaton on St Patrick’s Day 2019 but by that stage Brosnan was more mainstay than peripheral.

It could reasonbaly be argued that prolonged club campaigns hurt his chance of trying to push for inclusion with Kerry. Trying to become a component of panels in early summer, that had a settled look about them after the league completion, was an awkward task.

And it was not as if Kerry were desperately searcing for options. David Clifford is a lock in the full-forward line, Paul Geaney a two-time All-Star and in last year’s replay against Dublin, they introduced quality like Tommy Walsh, James O’Donoghue and Killian Spillane.

Brosnan spent last summer in Boston, subsequently scored 0-4 in the county final loss to East Kerry and his form was persuasive enough to get drawn in by Peter Keane from the outset in 2020.

“Coming up he’s always been a great scorer,” says Casey.

“He’s always been a person who has worked very hard at his game. Spending extra time at kicking, taking away a load of footballs. He has strengthened up awful lot over the past couple of years and he’s getting the rewards of that now.

“I think he’s matured quite an amount, particularly the last year or so. He’s added much more dimensions to his game as well. Up to this year he would have been seen as a scorer. Now his awareness around the field has seen him become a much better and dangerous player. When he gets the ball, he’s going offload to a person in a better position and he creates more space for himself as a result.”

tony-brosnan-scores-his-opening-goal-from-a-penalty Tony Brosnan fires home a penalty for Dr Crokes against Austin Stacks. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Brosnan got his first league start against Mayo at the start of March before the abrupt halt to action. His current form is good in this chaotic 2020 season, shooting over 0-3 in Inniskeen a fortnight ago against Monaghan before taking the Donegal defence for 0-6 in Tralee.

Prior to that there was 2-10 for Dr Crokes in a club shootout in August against Austin Stacks.

“He’s playing with confidence , that’s a huge plus,” says Casey.

“Himself and David Clifford seem to be striking up a good relationship as well, there’s a good dynamic between the two of them. Hopefully he will do well now Sunday and beyond.”

2013 saw Brosnan have a couple of minor appearances for Kerry before that brief U21 season in 2016. His birthday falls on New Year’s Eve, something which saw him that bit younger than opponents when competing in those underage grades.

He missed out by a day on being eligible for minor in 2014, the year that acted as the springboard for Kerry’s relentless dominance of the level.

That’s an example of when he has had to show patience during his football career. In this year of shifting priorities, he is poised to become a beneficiary of the change in the fixtures schedule.

Sunday provides a chance to make his mark.

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Fintan O'Toole

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