Alan Brogan revelling in his role as Dublin's closer

Dublin legend Alan Brogan may be the 15-minute man but he’s still hungry for success

There are plenty of stories in Dublin GAA circles about him. Here's one. A club corner back remembers Alan Brogan walking over before throw-in a few years ago. He hadn't been listed but St Oliver Plunketts/Eoghan Ruadh were well within their rights. This presented the corner back with an unexpected dilemma. To shake hands or not to shake hands. Maybe plant an early how's-it'-going shoulder into him. Maybe . . .

Brogan made the decision for him. Hand out, pulls him close, whispers: “I’m Alan Brogan and I’m going to roast you today.” And roast he did. That was a while back. There would be none of that now from the veteran who almost walked clean away from his first love.

Possibly for one last time, Brogan rejoined the Dublin panel last April. Jim Gavin moulded a deadly role for him: the closer. The calming influence. He who seeks ball when other legs are leaden. The 15-minute man.

“It’s something different for myself. Obviously this year I’ve been coming in but it’s not a position I’ve been in before. I suppose in the four previous matches to the first Mayo game, when I was coming into the games, they were practically over and we were a good bit up,” he says. “This was the first game where the subs have come in and they’ve really had to make a difference to get us back into a game. That’s what Jim expects from a sub.

"I think the role that I play is to maybe come in and steady guys down and be a calming presence. Other guys are maybe different: Mick Macauley plays a different role, Kevin McManamon obviously has a different role, he's a real goal threat each time he goes in.

“It’s about playing to your strengths as much as possible to help the team get back into the game or close out a game or whatever the case may be.”

Unflappable striker

Do you remember Alan Brogan of old? A corner forward in baggy sky blue jersey during the blazing summer of 2002. Love at first sight with Hill 16. He has a family of his own now so they became part of a relationship that spans 14 seasons.

But sure the Brogans and Dublin are inseparable. Bernard junior and senior. Uncle Jim and cousin James. The third brother, Paul.

The unflappable striker who became a three-time All-Star, Brogan must have felt he was going the way of the Ciarán Whelan at one stage with no All-Ireland final to sparkle in until 2011. Long time coming, they named him Footballer of the Year after that victory over Kerry.

“It’s amazing. I’ve often said it to the guys, I was 10 years before I managed to even feature in a final. I know they look like they’re coming quick and fast, but it hasn’t always been that way. It’s important while we’re at the top that we make the most of it and obviously we’re trying to put medals in the back pocket.”

It’s never been this good. And still, as ever, his mother’s kingdom, block their path.

“I think for us it’s just another game. I don’t think it really matters who we’re playing,” he says. “Obviously there’s history there and a sense of occasion when you’re playing Kerry. My Mam is from Kerry so that brings its own little edge to it, even though she’s probably a Dub at this stage. Obviously I have relations down there and the history from the 1970s is a big part of it but I think from our viewpoint, we’ll just be treating it as another game, like I’m sure they will . . . ”

Frantic

Now 33 , his new role was most effective in the Mayo replay as he conjured up Bernard’s goal when spotting Brian Fenton’s charge from midfield. That pass, that miscued shot, Bernard’s finish all combined to break Mayo.

“It does get a bit frantic; I suppose you have to throw a bit of caution to the wind at that stage. Maybe Brian Fenton’s run through the middle at that stage wasn’t a run he would have made earlier in the game . . . but ultimately that was the run that opened up the space for us to get the goal and it was probably that moment that changed the momentum in the game for us.”

In days past he wouldn’t have glanced up, just pointed.

“To be honest, I knew I was outside and I was thinking if the ball came out I’d try and put it over the bar. Luckily I spotted his run early enough and was able to get it into his path so it worked out well.”

Tighter blue jersey now, greying hair, chiselled features, Sunday could be the last time we see him.

“It’s getting more and more difficult each year as my kids get older and as I get older, but it’s not a decision I’ve made yet and it’s not a decision I’ll make for a number of weeks,” Brogan says. “I’ve enjoyed this year, probably more than I thought I would to be honest. I’ve enjoyed the training, I’ve probably trained harder this year than I have in the last couple of years because I’ve been injury-free.

“Look, it’s not a decision I’ve made at the moment and it’ll be another few weeks before I do. I know I’ve played for 14 years but it’s coming to an end soon. I’m just enjoying every day that I’m out there.”

Latest Stories