“Pat eventually snapped and pinned him against the wall. Bart just smiled. Pat, look at yourself! You’ve allowed yourself to be emotionally hijacked again!”
In 2011, Bernard Brogan was the reigning Footballer of the Year and had a coveted All-Ireland title in his sights.
Brogan’s exploits the previous year had earned him a number of individual accolades and the subsequent awards that go with that.
The Dublin forward even found himself invited to the White House for St. Patrick’s Day, along with Eoin Kelly from Tipperary, for their ‘excellent individual contributions’ to the previous year’s championship.
However, nobody was bigger than the team, as Brogan was about to find out during a pre-championship camp at London Irish’s training ground.
Pat Gilroy had to do serious self-reflection after the hammering inflicted by Kerry in the 2009 All-Ireland quarter-final. The reigning Leinster champions were favourites going into the big Bank Holiday Monday clash.
Nevertheless, an early Colm Cooper goal sent the Kingdom on their way to a 1-24 to 1-7 victory. In the aftermath of that defeat, Gilroy infamously called out his Dublin team for looking like ‘startled earwigs’.
The Dublin manager identified that not only his players, but himself, had been emotionally hijacked during that defeat. So he started meeting with performance and business consultant Bart McEnroe, as Bernard Brogan recalls in his autobiography ‘The Hill’.
Brogan remembers how the St. Vincents man started meeting McEnroe “for a series of brutal four-hour sessions every week for ten weeks.”
He continued: “At the first meeting in Citywest, this Bart fella apparently tore into Pat, saying he’d brought shame on his county for overseeing that disaster in Croke Park.
“‘You’re only a novice! Bluffer! Choker! Your team can’t tackle. You can’t coach! You can’t manage!’
“He kept on abusing Pat and his team right until they were nose to nose. Pat eventually snapped and pinned him against the wall.
“Bart just smiled. Pat, look at yourself! You’ve allowed yourself to be emotionally hijacked again!”
Dublin pre-championship camp
The St. Vincents man was determined to use this method on his Dublin team and took that opportunity at their London pre-championship camp.
“I was sitting in a chair at the front when before I knew it, he’d given some cue for Philly McMahon to go grab me by the neck from behind,” Brogan said.
“I didn’t know what was happening and just went into survival mode, and began grappling with Philly so I could breath.”
After a struggle, the St. Oliver Plunketts Eoghan Ruadh man ended up pushing his Dublin teammate “against the wall.”
The pair eventually sat back down on their seats and after “Philly had stopped laughing,” Gilroy explained to the group what had just happened.
Brogan continued: “Pat explained that what had just happened to me was a bit what had happened to us in the 2011 league final. And the 2010 All-Ireland semi-final. And when we were hit for five goals by Meath. And the Kerry game in 2009.
“We’d been startled earwigs because we’d been emotionally hijacked. Or, to use the neuropsychological term, we’d fallen victim to an amygdala hijack.
“The amygdala, is an emotional part of the brain, designed to alert us to potential harm. It can be your best friend or worst enemy.
“The downside is that it can exaggerate threats. Instead of merely alerting the rational part of your brain, the neocortex, it can override or even bypass it so you’re unable to think logically.”
That year, Dublin went on to win the 2011 All-Ireland but not before coming up against many obstacles.
In the All-Ireland semi-final that year, Donegal led the Dubs 0-4 to 0-2 at the break, playing every man behind the ball in a defensive system never seen in Croke Park before.
Dublin stayed patient in the second-half and won the game 0-8 to 0-6.
Brogan was instrumental in that second-half, setting up substitute Kevin McManamon for Dublin’s sixth and seventh score before knocking over a free-kick for the final point of the game.
Subsequently, in the 2011 All-Ireland final, Dublin were again faced with an uphill battle after falling four points behind with seven minutes of normal-time remaining as the four-time All Star winner remembers.
“Gooch would again side-foot a first-half goal into the Hill and then with 63 minutes gone on the clock threw over a point to give them a four-point lead,” he said.
“But this time there was no emotional hijacking.
“We responded, not reacted, with big play after big play which almost every Dublin supporter can still rattle off by heart, along with multiple unheralded plays and little wins that they didn’t spot, driven by voices — Pat’s, Mickey’s (Whelan) — they couldn’t hear.”
Three brilliant Dublin moments v Kerry. Cluxton's winning point in 2011, Kev Mac's goal in 2013 and Eoin Murchan's goal last September. Roll on Saturday 🙌🏻 pic.twitter.com/PZ06zpgPVw
— Hill 16 Army (@Hill16Army) January 23, 2020
Dublin went on to win that final by a point, thanks to a Stephen Cluxton free right at the death, with Brogan kicking their last score from play.
They have now won eight out of the last ten All-Irelands, with Brogan involved in seven of those triumphs.
Who knows how crucial Pat Gilroy getting rid of “emotional hijacking” was to the success of this great Dublin team?