Nobody would have begrudged Bernard Brogan had he decided to step away from Dublin duty at the end of last season as he celebrated his sixth All-Ireland win with his newborn sons alongside him.
Having suffered a cruciate injury at 34, not many expected to see Brogan enter the field of play in 2018 but he returned to a hero’s welcome in their win over Roscommon at Croke Park.
Fewer expected him to return in 2019 but here he is fit, ready and looking leaner than he has in years gone by. He may not be Dublin’s star player on the pitch anymore but that hasn’t dampened his spirits. Brogan’s hunger is there for all to see.
“I’ve always said that I’ll stay around until I feel like I can’t add any more value or I’m told I can’t add any more value. I never believed that the right way to go was, ‘Now is a good time, I’m actually at the top of the hill, I should ride out into the sunset’.
“I would prefer to be carried out on my shield having given everything and be able to say, ‘You know what, thanks a million, that’s my shift done’.
“That’s what I’m doing and I believe I can still add value and that’s why I’m here. I sat with Jim and he believes there’s a potential role there so that’s good enough for me. All I want to do is play for Dublin and be involved, it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”
Brogan is fully aware that he is not the player of old but 100 per cent confident that if called upon he can still do the job.
He is honest in his assessment that right now, as things stand, he may not be the 70-minute man he once was but he’s doing everything he can to make sure that if he’s asked to be a 15/20 minute player that he’s more than ready to do so. The Eoghan Ruadh man has shipped nearly 5 kilos in his preparation ahead of 2019.
If Jim Gavin needs an ‘old-head’ to come in and see out the game, Brogan is leaving no stone unturned in the pursuit of ensuring that he is that man.
“Well, I was just looking at, am I going to play 70 minutes of a game? Maybe down the road but for now it’s about how can I add value for 10 minutes if I get a chance?
“So, I’m looking at that opportunity, that 10 or 15 minutes that I may hopefully get at some stage, how can I be the best that I can be for that stage? So actually, last year if I was playing a game, you’d carb load, you build up and I’d be around 86kg coming into it.
“Now, I’m about 82kg so about 4kg lighter, fit and ready to go for a match. So that just means I have four less bags of sugar to carry around with me.
“Then obviously being super sharp on the strikes. I’m just practising kicking on the run, making sure I’m striking it really well. I am building myself to be a 15/20 minute man and then if I do that well and I get an opportunity to play, great.
“But I am trying to build so that I can add value for that one incident do you know what I mean? I’m not trying to build to be a 70-minute man because that’s not what I am going to be. So, just a different way of looking at things, just trying to get myself into the role that potentially I would be able to offer (something).”
Brogan hasn’t got much game time so far this year and wasn’t named among the substitutes for Dublin’s facile win over Louth last weekend.
It’s a different challenge for the former Footballer of the Year but he’s been there and done it. He has seen it all since coming on the inter-county scene over 13 years ago.
“A different challenge than I would have had. But I came in quite humbly into Dublin. I had a cruciate ligament injury when I was 19/20, missed a year there. So I was 21 when I came back with the Dublin U-21s and then I spent two years on the bench with the seniors before getting my debut.
“I’ve been there, done it before, I know how an opportunity can come and turn and you get five minutes or ten minutes and you do something good or an opportunity falls and you take it. That’s the way sport is, so I’m kind of hanging in there making sure I’m in the best position that when we’re in a training game I can show well.
“One thing Jim has is that in our environment the guys who play well get the opportunities. So when I chatted to him about coming back we talked about whether I could add value. I know I’m a bit older but if I’m playing better than the guy who is 20 years of age are you going to put me in? And he said he would, so that’s all I can ask for.
“That gives me energy that I can actually make a difference in training and push through the gears. Like I did when I was 21 years of age, that I can do the same at the other end.”