Dublin's Philly McMahon hoping to draw on Brogan inspiration to reclaim Championship jersey
DUBLIN star Philly McMahon hopes that lessons learned from former team-mate Bernard Brogan can help him regain a Championship starting spot later this year.
McMahon came on as a second half sub in the replayed All-Ireland final victory over Kerry last September, having not been involved in the drawn game a fortnight earlier.
For a stalwart of the successful Dublin team that is targeting six in-a-row this autumn, it was an unusual experience to find himself watching on from the bench rather than being in the thick of the action.
Veteran forward Brogan was in a similar position as he vied for a starting spot alongside the county’s coterie of attacking options, but failed to even make the 30-man matchday panel for that first clash with the Kingdom.
However, his performance at a training match between those two epic encounters saw Brogan – who has since called time on his inter-county career – force his way back into the squad for the replay.
And he had some words of wisdom for McMahon before departing the scene.
“A really key learning from Bernard was a match we played between the two finals, and he was brilliant,” recalls the Ballymun Kickham’s defender.
“He was on the same team as me, so I would’ve been marking the starting forwards and he was marking the starting backs. After it I told him he deserved be in the panel for the second game, and do you know what he said?
“He said he was watching some of the lads we were marking and it was like he had too much fear, and he just started doing what they were doing. So he was learning off young lads in his last game. He just started being more direct, which was the person he always was.
“The big difficulty when you get into your last couple of seasons is it changes. The big thing I’ve noticed over the years is players fall into a role of trying to do too much. For example, in your peak years - 25, 26, 27 - you’re there to do a specific job.
“In the later stage of your career, in training that specific job probably doesn’t stand out as much. Then people can try too hard or try too much and it can turn out to be counter-productive. You come across as someone who’s not there to do the job and that’s what the manager’s looking for.
“It’s key for me to make sure that while you can throw the shackles off, you stick to the job your manager needs you for. That’s what’s in my head.”
Fellow forward Eoghan O’Gara joined Brogan in bidding farewell to the inter-county scene, while McMahon – who turns 33 in September – is part of an aging Dublin crew that includes Stephen Cluxton (38), Michael Darragh Macauley (34 next month), Kevin McManamon (33), as well as Cian O’Sullivan and Michael Fitzsimons (both 32).
When Jim Gavin surprisingly stepped away in the aftermath of completing the five in-a-row last year, it was expected that some more of his loyal foot-soldiers might have followed suit, with a new regime starting under Dessie Farrell.
McMahon is delighted to still be there, but admits he has considered what his own future might hold.
“I’d love to say no there was no thought like that and I was 100 per cent going to [come back], but the problem is you’re always asked ‘are you going to retire? Is this your last year?’ And you’d be like ‘jeez, I’m only 32’.
“Last year was the first year of doing a bit more time on the bench than I’d normally do in the latter stages of the Championship. Some things are just out of your control - if the manager doesn’t want you, doesn’t feel that you fit in, it’s out of your control. It’s not like soccer or rugby where you can go to a different club; that’s it.
“I’m thankful that Dessie said they were going to look at everybody, they wanted everybody to be involved and it’s down to me and the rest of the lads to prove they want to be in the squad by having a good club championship.
“Time doesn’t wait for anybody, you have to make sure if you are going to go, you go 100 per cent and you don’t have it in the back of your head ‘this is my last year’ or whatever. If you have that in your mind, you’re already at a deficit.
“For me, it’s always thinking, I’m playing, I’m giving it 100 per cent and I’m trying to be better than it was last year.”