Gilroy pulling the strings on Brogan’s star turn

6 Jun

Published by TheScore.ie, 6 June 2012

TO LOOK AT Bernard Brogan in Croke Park last weekend, you wouldn’t think it was his first inter-county appearance since that September day which ended with a hug from “Pillar” Caffrey and the Sam Maguire held high.

Sure, the signs of rustiness were there when the two-time All-Star missed an easy free in front of the posts early on but it wasn’t long before he was raising the umpires’ flags and bothering the back of the Louth net.

Brogan finished a comfortable Sunday afternoon with 2-5 to his name, bagging his first championship goals since the 2010 All-Ireland semi-final. If missing the league campaign to take a holiday and then to undergo keyhole surgery on his knee was an ill-advised decision, it certainly didn’t show.

It was another assured performance by a player who didn’t take long to establish himself as one of few indispensable cogs in manager Pat Gilroy’s system. The transformation and improvement in his game, recognised with the Footballer of the Year Award in 2010, owes a lot to the man on the sideline, Brogan admits.

“I put a huge amount down to him, and in 2010, the emphasis he put on me and changing my game.

“I thought it was easy being a full-forward; that you can swan around and kick scores and get away with it. I’d been doing that for years and getting away with it for years.

He showed us what type of a Dublin team he wanted to play and what type of a Dublin team he wanted to build. He explained to us all how he wanted us to play and the type of game he wanted to develop with the team and the team of players we had. He was the manager and if I wanted to play in the team, this is what I had to do.

Relinquishing his role as an out-and-out striker and working back to act as a first line of defence was a change that didn’t come easy, Brogan concedes. But armed with the stats to prove his point, Gilroy got his way and now the consequences can be see not only at inter-county level but also with Brogan’s club, St Oliver Plunkett’s Eoghan Rua.

“It was unnatural for me. An out-and-out striker like myself, a full-forward, you just try to get on the ball and kick scores and not work back or track back.

“The team would even say that when a full-forward goes out and tries to make a block or tries to make a tackle — look at Diarmuid Connolly the other day, out there getting tackles in and making blocks — it’s hugely infectious on the pitch. The full-back line sees a full-forward going out and making tackles and working hard, it gives them so much energy. I hear that all the time with the club and with the Dubs.

The days of a full-forward line swanning around trying to kick a few scores and not doing any work are over in our book anyway. Pat used to pull me up in training for not working and swanning about the place. The pressure he put on me was hard at the time but it was brilliant and it really helped me as a player.

The emphatic nature of Sunday’s win against Louth has raised plenty of questions about the quality of opposition which Dublin faced but the game was no stroll in the park, Brogan points out.

“It’s going to be said now that it wasn’t a great challenge but I thought that it was a good game. They’re actually a very decent side. I’d say the scoreline flattered us at the very end. It wasn’t easy out there, we got wrapped up a couple of times.

“I think the slick foot passing was what benefited us in the end, it’s hopefully something we’ll do well this year — playing the ball quickly, not giving teams a chance to defend. If you move the ball quick with the foot, it’s an easy game. It’s something we’ll be working on this summer.”

It was that quick movement of ball with boot that carved open the Louth defence for the first of Brogan’s brace and he was quick to pay tribute to older brother Alan for pulling off the killer ball that set him clean through on Neil Gallagher’s goal.

“It was sublime. I went outside and turned back inside and the ball was there nearly before I got there. All I had to do was turn, try and keep it low and put it in the corner.

“It just shows what Alan is bringing. He’s been doing it for 10, 11 years now for Dublin and he’s still showing the hunger.

It’d be easy for him to just be happy with an All-Ireland medal but it just shows the hunger he brought the last day, the work-rate he put in. A lot of the same faces were involved last year in the final — there’s 15 or 18 lads —  and it shows the intensity of the lads. It shows the hunger is still there.

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