Alan Brogan says Mayo primed to test Dublin’s mettle
Ex-Dublin star believes Rochford’s side have forwards to trouble champions’ defence
Alan Brogan and Conal Keaney at the launch of Ireland’s First Family SportsFest at the National Sports Campus. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Alan Brogan’s last act in a Dublin jersey was perfection. The All-Ireland of 2015 was decided when Hill 16 swallowed his soaring late point against Kerry.
Now Brogan sees Mayo as the only county equipped to trouble a team running so smoothly that Jim Gavin barely needed younger brother Bernard, Diarmuid Connolly, Paul Flynn, Michael Darragh Macauley, Kevin McManamon or Eoghan O’Gara en route to the Sunday week decider.
“Against Kildare, for example, I thought they got through down the middle too easily for Daniel Flynn’s goal chance.
“That’s what Stephen Rochford and Mayo will look to do; try and get guys one on one . . . See if the Dublin defenders are as good as they have been made out to be.”
Recent history supports the Brogan theory that Mayo possess enough courage to drag Dublin into a genuine contest.
“Mayo are the only team, maybe bar Kerry, that are brave enough to really push up on Dublin. Having seen Stephen Rochford teams play, they will drop a defender back at certain stages, [Keith] Higgins or [Colm] Boyle, but they will press up on the kick-outs. That will test Dublin in a way they haven’t been tested before because they might not be able to drop Cian O’Sullivan off as they have in previous games to give that protection to the back three.
“They might not be able to have two or three fellas back there roaming loose with no one to mark. Against Tyrone, Mark Bradley, who is a very good footballer, the poor fella hadn’t a hope. For starters, the ball wasn’t even kicked into him. Once I think. When you have Mick Fitzsimons, Johnny Cooper and Philly McMahon back there in a two-on-one they are going to swallow up any attacker.
“Mayo will have to be brave,” Brogan repeated, “press up on the kick-outs, try to occupy Cian O’Sullivan, which is easier said than done because Cian is very smart in the way he plays. He always manages to bring someone back to pick his man up so he can slot into that hole.”
Where will Aidan O’Shea set up camp?
“Not full back anyway,” Brogan replied. “I think [Rochford] has seen enough at this stage not to put him back in the full forward line. The form of Andy Moran and Jason Doherty, it is no coincidence Aidan isn’t in there. I am not saying he is not good enough to play in there but he seems to clogging up a bit of space in there. I think they probably have to play him midfield or centre forward but I think midfield is the best spot for him.”
In these heady days for Dublin football, spare some tears for their lost hurlers. Now 34, Conal Keaney’s intercounty career may be over but the former dual player hopes the post-Ger Cunningham era – be it Anthony Daly, Pat Gilroy or somebody else who takes over – will entice younger exiles back to the fold.
“Anyone like Anthony or someone with a profile like that is probably what Dublin need at the minute,” said Keaney.
“It’s probably at a low ebb after the last couple of years, it’s not a true reflection of where Dublin are. It’s just from one thing or another, players dropping off, getting dropped, a bad atmosphere around the place, it just wasn’t good the last couple of years.
“It’s not going to take a whole lot to get it back but it needs a big manager to come in and galvanise the whole squad and bring it forward. I still say that Dublin, if they can get all the players back and get all the players fighting together, then they won’t be far off.”
The Gilroy rumour is not without substance.
“It’s very much out there, it’s kind of left field,” said Keaney. “But I wouldn’t be surprised. For someone like Pat to come in would be very good. Whether Pat has the time or really wants to do it, I don’t really know.
“Someone like that, a good character, well able to deal with individuals, comes in with a good reputation, there’d be no bullshit with him. I’m sure if he was to do it he would bring someone very good hurling-wise with him because obviously his background is in football though he’s always been keen enough on the hurling, to a degree!”
The inaugural Family SportFest will be taking place at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus on the 1st October.