No split loyalties for Ger Brennan as he focuses on tough task of dethroning Dublin

Former Hill 16 hero fully committed to the task of plotting a victory for Louth over the reigning Leinster and All-Ireland champions

Ger Brennan with Louth captain Sam Mulroy after the Leinster semi-final victory over Kildare at Croke Park which booked the Wee County back to back provincial final dates. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

To dream the impossible dream for a moment, what would it take for Louth to actually beat Dublin in the Leinster final?

Well, goals are a must for starters. Derry scored three of them in the league final and still needed penalties afterwards to scrape home. Monaghan required three goals too just to beat Dublin by a point in the first round of the league.

You have to go all the way back to the 2021 All-Ireland semi-final, when Mayo beat Dublin 0-17 to 0-14, for the last time a side overcame Dublin in the league or championship without scoring a goal.

Rewind back further, to 2010, and the last time Dublin lost a game in Leinster, and Meath netted five times that day.


Not that you’ll need to remind Ger Brennan, the current Louth manager about that one.

“I was wing back that day against Meath and we conceded four goals into the Hill End,” winced the St Vincent’s man.

You wouldn’t be telling Brennan anything new either if you mentioned that his current Louth team has an impressive capacity for scoring goals. Since the start of the league, they’ve hit the net 17 times. Six against Fermanagh in Division 2, four more against Wexford in the championship.

Captain Sam Mulroy has scored six of those 17 goals but Ciaran Downey, Ryan Burns, Tom Jackson, Ciaran Keenan and Conor Grimes all possess a risk factor Dublin will need to insure against.

They’re due a few goals too because they beat Kildare with points alone, 0-17 to 0-13, in the semi-final to secure back-to-back final berths.

“We’d an opportunity for a goal to put us eight points up I think going down the home stretch against Kildare,” said Brennan. “We missed it but, to be fair to the lads, they stuck at it. We looked at the postgame analysis, I think Kildare took one more shot from play than we did, and we just had a slightly better shot to score ratio, which is something we had been working on.”

They’ll need it all to come together in spectacular fashion to really threaten Dublin or, dare we say it, win.

“I suppose all great teams, all great legacies, eventually come to an end,” says Brennan, optimistically. “Maybe this is Louth’s time to end Dublin’s dominance of Leinster. That dream, that hope, is always there.”

It would be a real irony if Brennan, part of that last Dublin team to lose a provincial game, does find a way to round out that curious circle by masterminding the defeat of his native county, 14 years later.

He might lack the All-Ireland medals of a Cluxton or a McCarthy but the two-time winner is no less a Dublin legend. When he retired at the end of 2015, just 30 but broken by injuries, he noted that he’d been playing for Dublin every single year since he was 13.

His legacy was probably enhanced by missing the 2014 defeat to Donegal. How many times did we hear afterwards that if he’d been in his usual centre back slot for Dublin, they wouldn’t have been counter-attacked into oblivion?

Ger Brennan: 'I’m able to park and compartmentalise in my head where I’m from and what I’ve been asked to do so I’m just very much focused on the task at hand.' Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

“On a human level, it’s something that is a new experience,” acknowledged Brennan of facing Dublin. “I’ve been out of the loop since 2015 so probably, emotionally, my heart isn’t pulled that much at the moment. I’m able to park and compartmentalise in my head where I’m from and what I’ve been asked to do so I’m just very much focused on the task at hand.”

Brennan has four kids, of six or under. Two of them were in Croke Park for the Leinster semi-finals when Dublin and Louth played in separate games. The kids split the difference and wore red and blue gear that day.

They can’t lose this weekend either, regardless of the outcome, though Brennan himself possesses a straight line focus on taking down Dublin. He has been busily plotting.

“I think we’ve seen what Derry were able to do in the National League final, which is a very good template,” said Brennan. “We’ve seen Kerry and Mayo in previous seasons push Dublin close, quite often resulting in replays in the latter stages of the All-Ireland series. So there is a good few examples there of how you can get at Dublin.”

If he does manage to haul Louth to victory, he’ll be hailed a hero around Drogheda and Dundalk. They may not even remember Mickey Harte, the man whose considerable shoes Brennan stepped into.

“Taking over from somebody like Mickey Harte, it doesn’t really bother me,” he said. “I don’t care. I don’t really think that way. I just feel lucky to be involved.”