Curtis: Bring Brogan from the bench to re-ignite the Sky Blues
PERSPECTIVE was always likely to be the first casualty when the bullets started flying Bernard Brogan’s way.
The high court of social media issued its brutal 140-character verdict this week, immediately sending forth the bailiffs to bundle Brogan from the high ground of the hero.
Obituaries for one of the superior forwards of any generation were penned in the most unforgiving calligraphy.
But then, Twitter – a refuge for the forever offended and perpetually inflamed – would demand The Edge’s 1976 Gibson Explorer be seized the very second the U2 minstrel struck a first wrong chord.
Had Brogan – or, indeed, Paul Flynn and Kevin McManamon – logged on this week, the temptation might have been to hold a wake for their apparently expired talent.
Brogan and Flynn – eight All Stars, six All-Irelands, cornerstones of the greatest unbeaten run football has known – were to be ushered toward the knacker’s yard.
No more should they be afforded a starting berth on the Croke Park sward that has been the familiar backcloth for their sustained delivery of exceptional deeds.
McManamon, a Footballer of the Year candidate 70 minutes earlier, towering against Kerry and Donegal, was to be escorted from centre stage, banished to the margins.
Ignored completely was the reality that here were central cogs in a Sky Blue machine that has gone 18 months and 28 matches without a league or championship defeat.
Key components in a team rewriting the guidebook to excellence.
The barbs aimed at Brogan were particularly lacerating, declaring he could no longer find his way to the posts with the aid of a compass.
The remarkable judgement was that Jim Gavin should immediately hand a P45 to one of the deadliest marksmen to ever pull a trigger.
Brogan – insisted the keyboard warriors – must walk the plank ahead of next Saturday’s All-Ireland final sequel.
Thankfully the Dublin manager – considered, calm and armed with a perspective that acts as a firewall against hysteria – is not inclined to take notice of lynch mobs.
Gavin understands the rush to extinguish such a candle of erudition is absurd, a product of that increasingly impatient world where a bulging back catalogue of achievement counts for nada.
That the clock moves without pity toward the deadline is among sport’s eternal truths; the capacity to inflict offensive carnage is not an endlessly renewable resource.
Brogan turned 32 in April and even the outrageous reach of his talents cannot insulate him forever against time’s advance: no athlete’s assets are imperishable.
But the notion that the Navan Road maestro is terminally enfeebled, groping for a few more chapters in a story that has met its back cover, is a curious one.
Less than six months have passed since he was prince of the city, his league final masterclass launching a thousand nightmares in the subconscious of the great Marc ó Sé.
Maybe the 2010 Player of the Year’s aura is decelerating, maybe peak Bernard has passed, but, maybe, the appetite to liberate long festering resentments is at work.
There has always been a constituency who frowned upon Brogan’s celebrity, his second life as the GAA’s most visible human billboard.
After that game for the ages against Kerry a month ago, there were suggestions that Brogan had been no more than a mute passenger on Dublin’s hurtling fever train.
Yet he scored two points from play – the same tally for which Cillian O’Connor was properly lionised this week – won a free that Dean Rock pointed and set Philly McMahon bearing down on goal with a sumptuous piece of link-play.
Equally there is evidence that his powers are easing back, the first ebbing from seashore of the highest equinox tides.
Brogan failed to score against Donegal, barely contributed an offensive whisper to last weekend’s conversation.
His total tally from play in his last six championship games against Division One opposition is 1-6.
Yet if his numbers are listing, Brogan is no forlorn wreckage, no splintered hulk face down in the murk.
And he still has a significant role as Dublin seek to seal the shaft of possibility Mayo saw open last weekend.
Maybe it might be the duty to which McManamon for so long held the title deeds – game-changing impact substitute off the bench.
It is one his brother Alan fulfilled so eloquently and influentially in the autumn days of a storied career.
Right now, Paddy Andrews’s credentials for a starting role seem too perfectly presented to decline him a visa.
Yet McManamon’s summer of sustained excellence hardly deserves the flagellation that a return to the super-sub role he has done everything to outrun would represent.
The suspicion here is that might be the sort of crushing blow to his self-confidence from which the admirable McManamon – a point of light all year – might not easily recover.
A form-line over the 28 games that Dublin have gone unbeaten in league and championship shines a far more instructive light than a 50-minute malfunction.
McManamon deserves a pass for by far his quietest afternoon of a rip-roaring and brilliant summer.
Flynn, after lengthy issues with a debilitating groin-injury, might be a reduced figure from the force of nature who became the first ever Dub to win four straight All Stars.
Yet his appetite for trench warfare, his clocking on for the most unglamorous of shifts, is enormously valued by Gavin.
And Tomás Brady, the closest thing to a like-for-like replacement, has been a peripheral figure all summer.
Dublin’s starting sextet of forwards scored just twice from play against Mayo. Paul Mannion, Eoghan O’Gara, Cormac Costello and the precocious Con O’Callaghan offer some high-grade alternatives.
Yet bigger-picture perspective, the one that recognises the breathtaking standard Gavin’s attack has set over the last 18 months, rather than a panic-laden grope, is required.
Perhaps Andrews and Brogan might trade roles.
Such a recalibration might see the coals of Brogan’s talent burning again with the reddest intent.
Both singeing the premature obituaries and re-announcing himself as prince of the city.