The Irish Mail on Sunday
BERNARD BROGAN TURNS ALL-BLACK
McCaw meeting inspired Brogan to aim for greatness
OF ALL the things he imagined might come with wearing a Dublin jersey, taking on Richie McCaw in a hurling skills challenge is not something that ever crossed Bernard Brogan’s mind. Last November, the All Blacks came to town and the sponsor that unites the iconic rugby team with Dublin GAA brought a selection of leading players from the various codes to pit their wits against each other.
And so the poster boy for Gaelic football in the city matched up against rugby’s former International Player of the Year.
Thinking back, Brogan explains how he jumped at the chance to ask McCaw what it is that keeps the All Blacks as the brand leader in world rugby.
‘I was chatting to them briefly and they were talking about their comradeship and the ruthlessness of competition within their panel and the passion and the pride they have being from New Zealand and what it takes to get there,’ says Brogan.
‘It was really interesting to hear their feedback of how they’ve stayed at that level. It’s similar to what [Brian] Cody has done with Kilkenny in terms of ruthlessness with team selection and the competition within the panel. These are things you hear about a lot but it’s very difficult to actually replicate.’
Brogan doesn’t quite say ‘Dublin can be the All Blacks of Gaelic football’ but it’s what sections of supporters around the country must be privately fearing after Jim Gavin became the first Dublin manager to win the first four major trophies at his disposal – Leinster, All-Ireland and back-to-back National Leagues.
But the All-Star forward knocks back the suggestion that this summer’s Championship amounts to little more than a ‘slam-dunk’ for the holders. ‘It’s not easy and I don’t envisage this year being easy at all. People are talking it up as a slam-dunk for us but that’s not going to be the case. There’s always challenges and, as I said, we won the League but there were a lot of tough matches along the way.’
The All Blacks code has been credited as underpinning their continued success and Dublin have a similar ethos about nobody being bigger than the team – even a marquee player such as Brogan ,who earned the manof-the-match award after the 2013 All-Ireland final against Mayo, kicking 2-3, having been named Footballer of the Year in 2010.
‘That’s it. As I said about Jim [Gavin], it doesn’t matter if you’re there 10 years or one year with him. Everyone is the same and no-one thinks they’re more important than anyone else.
EVERYONE has a role to do. You hear about McCaw sweeping out dressing-rooms and we have our jobs to do like that as well when it comes to cleaning the dressing-room. There’s no prima donnas and there’s no-one falling after you, cleaning up after you and doing stuff for you.
‘It’s just an everyday routine and the minute you get away from that and think you’re bigger and better than that is when you get caught.’
Brogan was speaking in Croke Park for the launch of the Lenovo Skills Hub, which gives children the chance to learn Gaelic football, hurling and camogie skills at venues all over the country this summer. He is a natural ambassador for the initiative.
Watching him take Derry apart in the Allianz Football League final, it was hard to imagine that it was his first spring start after injury. And his desire to win a third All-Ireland burns bright.
‘Yeah, I’m mad to get into it. I missed all the National League and was lucky enough to get back for a semi-final and the final and have two good days, thank God.
‘I was mad to get back playing foot- ball. When Championship is just around the corner, it’s what you live for.
‘Even to win one All-Ireland is hard to do but to win more than one is
It’s similar to what Cody has done with Kikenny in terms of ruthlessness with selection
about getting the head right more than anything.
‘Obviously you have to have the talent and have the team and everyone has to work and click on the big day. And to win any All-Ireland you need a bit of luck along the way as well.
‘A good team will win one but a great team can win more than one. That’s what we’d love to do – to go out here and win more All-Irelands.’
Brogan had to bide his time before nailing down a starting position in 2007 and he points to his older brother’s experience as another lesson in
making the most of Dublin’s current run of success.
ALAN just won his first league final after 13 years and it was his first time even to play in one. He’ll be the first one to say to the lads – this doesn’t come around every year. We have a decent panel and we’ve won the National League but we want to push on,’ says the younger Brogan.
‘It’s about not taking it for granted and not thinking that you’re better than you actually are. You have to go out and work harder than the opposition. If you look at Kilkenny and the teams that have won multiple All-Irelands on any given Sunday, they go out and work harder and put in more hits and run further and longer than any other team.
‘The competition in their panel is key. Cody has not been shy about bringing in young players and dropping All-Stars and having that type of cut-throat regime.’
Keep winning and the parallels with Kilkenny and the All Blacks will continue to be drawn.