Dublin’s young guns easing the pressure on star forward Bernard Brogan
Arrival of the likes of Paul Mannion and Ciarán Kilkenny giving Dublin manager Jim Gavin plently of options in attack
Dublin’s Bernard Brogan: “I’ve always been a scorer and people would rate my game on how much I score but I’ve taken that away from myself. I nearly get more energy now from an assist.” Photograph: Inpho
The old Dublin conundrum is not expected to reoccur with Jim Gavin’s 2013 version but the idea still lingers.
There is a long-standing habit of them gliding through Leinster only to be floored in the later championship rounds. They used to be the opposition that gave serious football counties the necessary leg-up to grab hold of Sam Maguire.
That theory was banished in 2011. The only problem during the current mid-term report, before the All-Ireland quarter-final, is that threat can’t but be remembered. Not by all the players mind. Especially not Jim Gavin’s young assassins.
When change was needed in last Sunday’s somewhat testing duel with Meath it was members of the 2011 team that Gavin hauled ashore. Eoghan O’Gara and Cian O’Sullivan went first. Granted, they were replaced by Denis Bastick and Kevin McManamon, fellow lieutenants from the Pat Gilroy era.
But the next two substitutions, around the hour mark, were the most interesting. Ger Brennan wasn’t long followed by Bernard Brogan. The centre back and chief marksman replaced by Darren Daly and Dean Rock. Gavin warriors both.
The final change was a Makélélé for Zidane move as Bryan Cullen brought a water -carrier element instead of the constant creativity of Diarmuid Connolly.
Show of strength
All told, it was some show of strength. Nobody is safe. The mindset has so clearly evolved. Even for Brogan.
Yesterday, his Legacy consultancy gathered both media and team-mates for the announcement of a Warrior Sports endorsement deal.
What we know for certain is big brother Alan Brogan, absent with groin trouble for 10 months, will be available for selection come the August Bank Holiday weekend. He will be doing well to dislodge Ciarán Kilkenny from the playmaker role that has seen Paul Mannion sparkle much like Bernard used to from Alan’s supply in summers past.
Brogan noted seeing Kilkenny’s sumptuous distribution landing on Mannion’s chest.
“It’s brilliant. For a long time you guys would have asked me can Dublin win an All-Ireland without me playing well or me scoring seven points a game. The lads answered that this year. They’re stepping up, they’re kicking points. They came into a team and settled in like they’ve been there for 10 years. It takes a lot of pressure off me,” he adds, while also noting Kilkenny’s 0-3 after half-time last Sunday and Mannion’s general excellence should help distract the attention of opposing defences.
“I’ll get my chance,” he continued. “Obviously I’ve always been a scorer and people would rate my game on how much I score but I’ve taken that away from myself. I nearly get more energy now from an assist.”
What of the defensive holes Meath exposed? “Jim realises that and he asked the same questions himself after the game. He knows we’re definitely not the finished article.”
With Kilkenny and Jack McCaffrey, in particular, driving Dublin onwards – Mannion, Rock, Johnny Cooper and Darren Daly too – the role of elder statesmen has altered.
Gavin made Stephen Cluxton captain but Diarmuid Connolly’s promotion to vice captain is also clearly working.
“Well he’s (Connolly) changed hugely over the last number of years,” said Brogan. “He’s one of the most talented footballers out there and would have been a bit wild in the past but he’s really settled down now and he’s stepping up as a leader as well and he’s getting more involved in training and giving us his opinion . . ..
“ He was kind of nervous and didn’t get involved in the social stuff but now he’s really part of the team. He’s pinging balls out the field and putting lads in. He’s just doing what he has to do for the team. He obviously wants success as well . . . he’s a different man.”
Brogan is happy with his own role. “I’m older now and I want to lead for this team and do the best for the team. It is not about me scoring. I’d prefer a young lad to get a few points on the board and get his confidence up. We all want to score and if it is on I will try to take it but it is all about the team now.
“It’s about winning the game. As Jim always says it can be one point or 10, it doesn’t matter. He doesn’t care if it is fancy or not. He just wants to win. That’s all we want from it as well.”