Brady has a point to prove
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Brady has a point to prove

In a small room on the top floor of Parnell Park's clubhouse, Tomas Brady looked across the empty stadium and dreamed of summer.

The specifics he kept to himself. But after watching the chaos of Dublin's meltdown in last year's All-Ireland semi-final, when he was an unused sub, Brady has a point to prove this year.

As do Dublin. Comparisons with the county's great 1970s team have yet to fade and in time this generation of players may even surpass the achievements of Heffo's Army. They know serious issues need correcting.

That semi-final defeat cruelly exposed their tactical naivety on a day when counter-attacking football ruled and when Jim Gavin, the Dublin manager, had to rewrite his coaching manifesto and move across the theoretical chamber.

And so after a winter of introspection, the new Dublin are capable of appearing more like Donegal than Donegal themselves - to the point where, in a dour League game against Derry this spring, their fans booed them and pundit, Jarlath Burns, declared Gaelic Football 'dead'.

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"Listen we used the League to try certain styles of play," said Brady. "Some experiments worked. Some didn't. But there were times when we adapted well to certain situations, when we learned a lot about ourselves.

"The more times you play a defensive system, the more you can see certain ways to get around it. It is always a huge challenge because no one team plays the same as another, but obviously the more you play against certain teams and certain styles, the better you are at figuring them out. We are well equipped this year to deal with those teams."

The bigger issue is whether Dublin can figure out themselves. They operated off one tactic last year - attack. Time after time, match after match, press conference after press conference, Gavin spoke with missionary zeal about his philosophy and how he would stick by it come what may.

Tomas Brady. Photo: INPHO. Tomas Brady. Photo: INPHO.

Then came Donegal. All of a sudden the system needed tweaking. Yet against Derry they went from one extreme to the other. And didn't Dublin's fans let Gavin and his team know all about it. "Look you know Derry were playing to suit their individual needs and were playing within the rules that night," says Brady. "We had a lot of chances that we didn’t take in that game and I think if we had have taken them, you wouldn’t have heard the booing."

They did hear it and since then they have shifted back towards their original policy. "We're all about getting the appropriate mix," said Brady. And if they find that mix, another Leinster title - their 10th in 11 years - seems inevitable. "Our focus is on Championship. We’ve tried a lot of things in the League – and ended up in a League final, but Championship is the main priority this year.

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"Okay, we’re the only Division One side from Leinster but Championship is a whole different kettle of fish. To write off teams like Meath, Kildare, Laois in the Leinster Championship is a very silly thing to do."

Meath, Kildare, and Laois aren't the only things Brady is refusing to write off. A hurler originally - he won a Leinster minor and Under 21 Championship with the Dubs before making the team which won the 2011 League - he switched codes in 2012 to focus purely on football.

Damage to his cruciate ruled out his participation in the 2013 All-Ireland and last year he was just a bit-part player. Still, there are no regrets.

"None whatsoever. We had a couple of good years there (with the hurlers) before I left, winning the League in 2011, making a Leinster final.

"Something I always wanted to do was play football at inter-county level and luckily enough I got the chance in 2013. Look, I follow the hurlers closely. I have a lot of good friends still there.

"But I have moved on. The fact is I love both games. But unfortunately guys are having to choose between the two. The GAA, being an amateur organisation, guys should be allowed play what they want. But the stakes are so high. Managers and players are giving up so much of their time. It’s win at all costs which is something that is sad to see. But it’s hard to see it going any other way.

"Within Dublin, it’s one of the most competitive club championships in the country. You have players working here from other counties, and others who have transferred, so it adds to the competitive nature.
"Managers are giving up so much of their time. Their reputation is on the line. They want to do as well as possible. If they see a dual player affects his chance of winning the Championship, they’re going to have to force their hand on that.

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"Players realise as well that their game can be sacrificed if they are doing both. You see players choosing one or other as well rather than their hand being forced."

After coming back from injury last year, Brady didn't even hurl with Na Fianna, his club, in 2014. This year he plans to give it a go once again. And as he does so, he believes a Dublin double is possible in both football and hurling.

"On the question of potential, it’s only a matter of time for Dublin hurling. The team is very young yet they’ve great experience. They’ve already had success. So I think yeah, there is a great chance of them getting there. As for the footballers, everyone knows the potential we have within Dublin, the success we’ve had."

They want more. "You can never have enough," said Brady. "That's why there will be no complacency in our Leinster campaign. We're all battling to get on the team."