Speaking with Bernard Brogan at the Wings for Life Charity run

May 13th, 2014
by Weeshie Fogarty

It's as if you stepped from one world straight into another. Just across the road from St Mary's magnificent Cathedral is The Kings Bridge, cross over this and you leave the hustle and bustle of Killarney town and enter a complete new world. Here where the mountains sweep down to the lake shores, their lower slopes covered in woodlands, lies the 10,236 hectare (26,000 acres), Killarney National Park. The distinctive combination of mountains, lakes, woods and waterfalls under ever changing skies gives the area a special scenic beauty. The nucleus of the National Park is the 4,300 hectare Bourn Vincent Memorial Park which was presented to the Irish State in 1932 by Senator Arthur Vincent and his parent-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. William Bowers Bourn in memory of Senator Vincent's late wife Maud. Known to locals as the Demense it has been part and parcel of the lives of all old Killarney natives for centuries and has been my youthful sporting stomping grounds and now later in life my daily walking spot which helps refresh body, mind and soul. But all that quietness and tranquility change dramatically last Sunday week when from early morning runners and walkers from far and wide, home and away, began to converge inside the gates of the Demense.  The reason for their attendance in such huge numbers was in support of a massive charity event, Wings for Life World Run in aid of Spinal Cord Research. Over 50,000 were expected to run globally in thirty two counties.

One of the main organizers and chief communications officer was non other that former Kerry footballer and All Ireland winner Sneem's Killian Burns. And it was an invitation from the genial Sneem man which saw me given the opportunity to meet and interview some house hold names in the world of Irish sport who had been invited to come along and get the event under way.  And so it was to the magnificent backdrop of mountain and lake of the Demense I met Dublin star Bernard Brogan, Seamus Moynihan and hurling legend Joe Canning of Galway. Munster rugby star JJ Hanrahan was there as was Currow great Siobhan Fleming just confirmed as a member of Irelands ladies rugby world cup squad. Also present were two well known and highly respected Kerry men both unfortunately wheel chair bound due to spinal cord injury. Tralee's Paralympian Roy Guerin and Tralee Councilor Terry o Brien. Both men of course represented what this massive fund raiser was all about.

It was of course inevitable when chatting to Bernard Brogan that his Kerry connections came up in conversation and the Dublin scoring star was quick to point out that his mother came from Listowel, met his father at a barn dance near Finuge and as youngsters he spend many the holiday in Listowel playing football around the streets and he added "I would have learned as much about football and the skills down here in Kerry as I would have at home in Dublin". I had to remind him that Kerry's loss was Dublin's gain.

The previous day Saturday Dublin's under twenty one side had destroyed Roscommon in winning another All Ireland  and I put it to him that Dublin were red hot favorites to retain the All Ireland this year and their panel was getting bigger and bigger. He replied, " There is massive competition for places on the team and even yesterday the under twenty one full forward line of Cormac Costello, Connor McHugh and Paul Mannion scored 1-18 between them, there will be eight or nine of those boys coming in and putting the pressure on the rest". So how difficult was it going to be to retain the title, harder or easier than last year taking of course in to consideration that no team since Kerry in 1931/32 had achieved back to back league and championship doubles. He was pragmatic and forthright in his reply, "we are favorites with the bookies but to win back to back All Ireland's is a very difficult thing every other team will have plans and new tactics to disrupt the type of football we play'.

We hear a lot about the competition for places on the Dublin team giving the huge talented panel they have, so this was another question I posed for the free scoring Dublin ace. "Probably where a lot of our success came from in the last couple of years is the competition at training and these young lads pushing on, its very competitive and last year I was taken off in four or five games for the younger players and the motto is if you are not performing off you come, that's the way Jim Galvins puts it and it's the best way to have it". He expressed delight that his groin injury has completely cleared up following surgery before Christmas and was delighted to get playing time in the recent national league semi final and final won by his side.

His final remark to me concerned then greatness of Kerry and that awful swarming thirteen men behind the ball style football played by a number of other counties. "We go out" he said "to play as expansive football as we can, we want to attack, that is what footballers want to do and that is why every time we play Kerry you will see exciting football". Bernard Brogan as were the other sports stars, so courteous and polite, free with his time, willing to discuss any topic despite the fact a queue had formed as we spoke to have their photograph taken with him and secure his autograph.  It will not bode well for the opposition when he said "the groin injury which affected me so much all last year has completely cleared up and I am really looking forward to the season now". Deadly accurate from both feet he is a real class act and a joy to see inaction. Only Kerry have successfully defended the championship in the last twenty three years, if the Dublin man with the Kerry mother stays injury free the bookies odds of 6/4 on will shorten even further. Last year I went for Dublin to win the title it's even easier to stay with them this year. 

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