Dublin’s code breaker Tomás Brady casts all doubts aside
The versatile footballer misses hurling but is now focused on beating Cork in the Allianz Football League final
Dublin’s Tomás Brady missed most of the 2013 All-Ireland winning season due to a cruciate ligament injury. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho.
In the two years since Tomás Brady switched from hurling to football there have been doubts, and lots of them. If his was any county other then Dublin it might have been easier and only now does Brady fully appreciate that.
He’d always been considered equally deft in both codes, for both county and his club, Na Fianna – but when Brady helped Dublin win the 2011 Allianz Hurling League, their first such title in 72 years, few people anticipated he would ever jump ship. He was a first-choice hurling defender, with no reason to suspect that would change.
Then towards the end of 2012, and to the “huge disappointment” of then Dublin hurling manager Anthony Daly, he declared himself a Dublin footballer.
Manager Jim Gavin was certainly glad to have him, although whatever hopes Brady had of impacting on the 2013 championship ended before it began, when he ruptured his cruciate knee ligament (for the second time, actually) at the beginning of June.
Only now – as Dublin look to win a third successive Allianz Football League title – can Brady feel as if his switch to football has been justified, his patience, and persistence, paying off.
He’s featured in all of Dublin’s league matches so far (scoring 0-7), starting at either right-half forward or midfield, or else coming off the bench (as he did for the last two games, both against Monaghan).
Part of Brady’s appeal to Gavin is this versatility, and also the defensive sense that he’d brought from hurling.
Brady himself admits he probably prefers midfield, and may well up end up there over course of the summer. Indeed Dublin have tried six different midfield partnerships in their eight league games, Brady combining with Denis Bastick for one of them.
“I have probably played more football in the last few months than I have in the two years before that,” he admits. “That first year with the footballers (2013), I missed out on the championship, as I’d just torn the cruciate.
“Then last year I was just back sort of finding my feet. With other counties, you might get more of an opportunity, but you don’t really have the luxury with Dublin, because it’s so competitive in Dublin. You don’t get as much game time coming back from injury. This year I’ve a good 14 months of training under my belt so that’ll stand me in good stead coming into the summer.
“My preferred position would probably be midfield, or the half-forward line. Wherever the ball needs to be won. But there’s competition everywhere really, isn’t there? But every league campaign, when you’re trying to break into this team, is important.
“I think this year, probably more than the last two years, guys have got an opportunity to stake a claim. And you can feel yourself getting sharper, and the skills are much more advanced than say they were this time last year. It’s purely down to staying injury free, and consistently training and playing games.”
Brady admits he still has a good relationship with the Dublin hurlers, and fully expects a big year from them, too. He also admits there are times he misses it. “I still have a lot of very good friends there (in Dublin hurling). They all seem to be on their toes. Ger Cunningham has come in, tried new things out and it seems to be working for the most part so far. The guys are really enjoying it. I’d always keep an eye out and keep in contact with a few of them regularly.
For now Brady is entirely focused on Sunday’s league final showdown against Cork. Like most players he sounds a little jaded when asked about the defensive trends currently prevailing in football, although he doesn’t deny that’s what Dublin spend a little more time on these days.
“Really it is up to us to find a way to break it down. We’re working on it in training, trying to be creative, because we know we are going to involved in a couple of games this summer where there’ll be 13 men behind the ball.
“At the same time we try and stick to the traditional style we play, open football. But we do look at it at certain moments in training, and play more defensive style games. Cork are probably the form team in the country this year, and most consistent,” he says. “They had some very tough fixtures in the league, four up the north. I think they have adapted their style of play and learned a lot of lessons from the Munster final last year. They are not as defensive as some teams, but they do bring some of their forwards back and try break at pace.”