Bernard Brogan has never lost the hunger, despite not being a constant part of Dublin’s match-day squads this Summer.
In 2018, a cruciate injury looked liked it spelled the end of the St Oliver Plunkett’s/Eoghan Ruadh clubman’s days in the Sky Blue and Navy of Dublin.
Serious injuries aren’t just the preserve of competitive inter-county fare, but perhaps an insight into how intense inter-county training has become, that Brogan’s pain came on a Winter’s night training in Innisfails.
“Paul Mannion just pinged the ball into me and I just went up to it and I lost the ball in the floodlight and I kind of just moved ahead to get the ball out,” the six-time All-Ireland winner recalls.
“I landed awkwardly and just rolled the left knee. I knew straight away that something was wrong.
“It is tough when you’re not getting picked, tough to not be involved, confidence was down, the twilight of my career to do a cruciate so late I was like, God, will I ever get back?”
But there’s resilience in the Brogan clan, and the 35-year old, who has won 12 Leinster titles in his 13-year senior career with Dublin, worked hard to get back into the frame.
“I was always good at bouncing back. I always felt when the pressure was on, when people questioned me, when people didn’t think I was up for it, that’s when I’ve always stood up and done my best.
“I just went straight into recovery. You usually have a period to build the legs up to take on the operation, but I was in good enough nick that the following couple of days, I got into Santry and got it done.”
The Sports Surgery Clinic in Santry has become a familiar scene for many inter-county players in recent years.
Recovery from any injury can be a lonely spell, but it’s also the result of a lot of team-work.
Brogan pays tribute to physio James Allen for all his work in aiding his recovery.
“James Allen, the physio, we were with each other four or five times a week – I was in his house every Saturday morning and he kind of devoted his time to trying to get me back,” he said.
“For me I was like, ‘this is my last chance to try and be involved in an All-Ireland’ and, for all I knew, it was my last chance to play with Dublin.”
Brogan said it was tough being around the Dublin camp during the Allianz Football League campaign, where his on-field action was at a minimum.
“For the National League I didn’t feel I was there, I didn’t get much game time, my confidence was down, and I didn’t know if I’d made the right decision and all that, but I just said, I’ll stick with it.”
They bleed blue in the Brogan household – his namesake father Bernard Snr won three All-Ireland Senior titles.
His first came in 1974 as a squad member, with Dublin claiming their first All-Ireland SFC success since 1963.
Bernard Jnr had the fortune of lining our with his brother Alan for three of Dublin’s recent All-Ireland wins.
“Sport has been a massive connector for our family. People always say, ‘Your Dad was a legend.’ You’d walk the streets and you’d hear people talking to him, about the great Dublin and Kerry games and the great days of the Dubs and how much of a legend he was.
“I’d love to walk down the streets someday and have my kids talking about me and kind of look up and go, ‘wow – he must have been an impressive guy.’ For me, that’s massive – the pride that brings to your family.”
Having represented his county for 13-years, Bernard finds himself imparting wisdom on some of the younger footballers coming through the ranks:
“I always talk to the young lads and not to forget their career – yes you can give everything to football for a period, but don’t chose a career just because it’s going to give you more time to play football. Choose a career that’s right for you and unlock your true potential.
“When I was young, I was just transfixed on football. I didn’t care about anything else. All I cared about is just putting on the blue jersey.
“Where you’re from is everything. For me, my family, my club, my school – everything that I’ve done in my life has been building towards that and to put on that blue jersey and to play for Dublin is amazing.”