Bernard Brogan embracing new challenge
By Cian O'Connell
A decade ago Bernard Brogan waited and wondered. When would a real chance in the sky blue jersey be afforded to him? Patience and mental strength were required.
In the intervening years when All Ireland and Leinster titles were being accumulated Brogan was a constant. A source of class and provider of scores. The opportunistic finisher, capable of altering the complexion of games, delivering flashes of inspiration when necessary; a darling of the Hill.
Between the 2016 All Ireland Final and replay, though, Brogan dealt with disappointment. The second instalment of the gripping Dublin and Mayo saga would commence with Brogan on the bench. His role might have changed, but Brogan’s importance didn’t waver.
With the issue delicately poised late on, Jim Gavin summoned Cormac Costello and Brogan. Mayo just didn’t have the same resources to administer the brilliant and brutal blows.
So when Dublin’s team was named for the Leinster SFC opener against Carlow, Brogan had the experience and guile to deal with the setback of not being in the initial XV. “Yeah, I've been very lucky in the last 10 years to start more often than not,” Brogan says. “But yeah, it's a challenge.
“I was obviously disappointed because I actually felt I was moving really well coming into the last game. But Jim just wanted me to come off the bench, there is massive competition in the full-forward line.
“There are probably seven or eight lads there who could play in most inter-county teams, so it's something that we're going to have to live with this summer.
“It's about getting the mindset right. As I said, I'm feeling good. I'm going to try to start the next day and I think when you don't believe you can start or don't believe you're competitive, that's when you start going backwards.
“If I don't I just have to make sure that I have the head right to come on to try to make an impact.
“I came on, and tried to make a difference, tried to get involved, tried to make the team better and I suppose as I've got older I have that experience to get my headspace right.”
It means Brogan is relishing the opportunity to prove he can still produce when it matters most of all. “Yeah, absolutely and it's a challenge that I've had before,” Brogan states.
“I didn't make my debut until I was 23. I spent two years on the bench under 'Pillar' (Caffrey), fighting tooth and nail, doing extra sessions, practicing myself, trying to break into that team.
“So I know what it's like. As you know I've been lucky enough over the last 10 years to play a lot, but it's a challenge that will get the best out of you.
“It's made me re-look at my body shape, re-look at my fitness levels, re-look at what cardio I need to be able to do on the pitch, re-look at my prehab making sure I don't pick up a silly knock, making sure I do my right recovery.
“It's made me rethink things and I suppose that will only benefit the team. If everyone is thinking like that we'll get that benefit to the team and the performance as a whole. The internal competition is driving the team and the performance of the team.”
How Brogan steeled himself while trying to take those first steps on the senior inter county stage has offered valuable assistance throughout his career. “Absolutely, yeah, I've talked about it a load of times, about the endless kind of week-in, week-out when I was trying to get into that team when I felt I was competitive, I felt like I deserved a chance, but I just couldn't get into the starting 15 or even onto the pitch under Pillar during his first few years,” Brogan says.
“So that's a mindset that I've had before and is something that I've been able to sort of re-tap into. Even with the experience, I'm able to hone into it a bit better and take the ego out of it, take all that kind of stuff out of it.
“I genuinely have no ego about the situation. I want to play for Dublin because I love Dublin. I want to win with Dublin because I love winning and I'm competitive.
“There's absolutely no selfishness about it, I want to do what's best for the team and if the management and Jim says this guy is playing because he's playing better than you, I'll go 'right, I'm going to show you that he's not better than me or I'm going to show you that I can make an impact when I come on.
“When I was younger I wanted to play because I wanted to be out there myself. Now I just really want this team to be successful.
"When we go out on Sunday I want us to go out to put in a good performance to try get over the line to keep that ball going.
“As I've got older my mindset has kind of changed like that. We've been lucky enough to have the learnings in life I suppose.”
Four All Ireland wins along the way did help Brogan accepts. “Yeah, I think so," Brogan admits.
"I definitely think that when you win your attitude changes, you've obviously had success so you're not craving that success.
“Obviously you have the hunger to win and if you don't have that you'll be beaten on All-Ireland final day or beaten well before that, so having that success makes you re-evaluate things just kind of makes you think about things in a different light.
“I now have a different challenge and I understand that, but I relish it, it's a great challenge for me to personally have and I believe that I'm able to step up to it, so I'm really looking forward to it.
“I feel like I'm 20, 21, 22 again, coming into training nervous about whether or not I'm going to get a start. It's given me a new energy, it's given me a new motivation around the place, it's driven me on a good bit this year.”
Brogan’s adventure continues.