DUBLIN’S FOOTBALLERS MAY have kicked off their All-Ireland title defence with a routine win over Louth a month ago, but talismanic forward Bernard Brogan reckons their summer ambitions will be tested this Sunday at Croke Park.
Pat Gilroy’s side demolished the Wee County -2-22 to 0-12 - at HQ, to set up a provincial semi-final against Wexford this weekend.
“They were probably unlucky last year not to turn us over,” Brogan says of Jason Ryan’s outfit.
“They know us very well and know how to play against us. We don’t get any easy games against them. They’re going come strong and I think they’re going to have great confidence after last year. They’ll be thinking themselves that they had a chance to turn us over what turned out to be the All-Ireland champions.
“They’ll have definitely something to say on Sunday and they won’t be coming to Croke Park to make up the numbers. They’ll be going out hell for leather and they’ve a couple of nice footballers as well. They’ll take a lot of confidence coming through against Longford. I think that Longford team were under-rated. They’re a really good team and Wexford did well to get through them. I don’t think it’s going to be an easy day but I’m looking forward to it.”
If it won’t be easy this time out for Dublin, it was certainly facile against Peter Fitzpatrick’s side, with Brogan grabbing two goals in as many minutes to end an impressive afternoon’s work with 2-5 next to his name. But the St Oliver Plunketts man insists that performance means little, a month on.
“I think the first day out is always a tough one and you want to go out and have a good performance. The couple of goals went in and Louth found it very tough to get involved in the game. I think the scoreline flattered us a bit.
“It’s early days and teams are just going about their business and trying to get through these first few rounds. They can be tricky, old games and so we went out to work our hardest until the end. We only won the second-half by two points and Louth put up more of a fight but I think the two goals really killed them. Nobody’s going to be thinking they’re world-beaters after the first game.
“Every team usually has a good win during the year and after that it was about getting back to work and down to what we do well which is working for each other. That’s what we’ll be trying to bring into Sunday. As we saw during the league, when we try and just go out and play football and think you’re world-beaters you’ll get beaten. In the couple of games that we played well during the league, we worked hard and did what we did last year. We learned a good lesson from the league that we’re not a team that can just turn up and be good. We’re going to have to work hard to do that so that was a good early lesson and hopefully we’ll learn from them with every game and on Sunday give Wexford the full respect that they deserve and go hard and show that you want it more than them.”
Since that first run out, the All-Ireland champions have closed ranks and knuckled back down ahead of another bid for Leinster and All-Ireland titles. And after an underwhelming league campaign, Brogan insists the ‘pep is back’ in the Dubs’ step.
“The A v B games have been great this year. The young lads, the U21s who have come in, have been a breath of fresh air,” he says.
“We needed it. After winning last year, there was a hangover throughout the league and a couple of performances were up and down and lads were going through the motions a bit. The new lads who have come in have added a pep in the step and upped the intensity of training again. These lads have shown they’re not here just to hang around. They want to play football this year and most of them will at some stage. They’re really showing they’re up to the level and that’s driving on the rest of the lads and the A v B games have been brilliant. That’s what you need and that’s where Kilkenny have got all their success — the so-called B team driving things on.
“The four-week break was crucial for me personally because I didn’t have much time before the first game to get my hands on the ball because I was coming back from injury. So I’ve been able to do that now and get my hand-eye co-ordination a bit better. It was rusty the last day for the first few minutes but hopefully with four weeks of good training and a club championship match in I’ll have a better eye-in on Sunday.”