By Ronan Fagan
“No, I don’t think so,” smiles Ben Brosnan when asked to contemplate the notion of ever matching Colm Morris’s appearance record of 164 matches for the Wexford senior footballers.
That is exactly the mark which Ben’s long-time team-mate Brian Malone is set to equal this Saturday when Wexford travel to face neighbours Waterford in the third-round of the Allianz National League.
Brian first lined-out competitively with the seniors in an All-Ireland championship Qualifier in Clones against Monaghan on July 8th 2006 and thankfully the Shelmaliers’ man hasn’t missed a campaign since.
In fact, of the 112 available fixtures between his debut and the end of the 2014 season, Brian missed only ONE game (against Fermanagh in the 2010 league).
Ben Brosnan is somewhat adrift of the Malone and Morris mark, with Brosnan having gone through the 131 mark in last Saturday’s victory over Carlow.
So it is when Ben is asked whether he’ll be around for another 30 or so games to also reach the 164 milestone that the attacker instantly calls a halt to such thoughts.
“It is unbelievable what Colm has achieved in terms of appearances and what Brian now looks set to even go past,” Ben exclaims.
“Like how many games has Brian missed in that time? He plays absolutely everything. 164 games is unbelievable.
“He has been the most consistent player over the last 10 or 15 years and I’m just delighted for him.
“Everyone looks up to him, no matter what age you are; if it’s your first year on the panel or tenth or eleventh year, the minute he speaks, everyone listens.
“Over the course of the past 15 years he has looked after himself better than anybody else. And, touch wood, he is never really injured, and that’s not just out of luck either because he does a lot of preparation in the gym and whatever else to keep himself in good form.”
Brian himself isn’t too engrossed in the personal end of things, but instead he is just eager for Wexford to secure more victories like last Saturday’s against Carlow.
As regards moving onto 164 appearances next weekend, the teacher at St. Peter’s College Wexford says: “I hadn’t even thought about it until you brought it up. It wasn’t really on my mind. Those things are what you look back on when you finish up.
“At the moment, I am just so focussed on trying to pick up wins like today’s (against Carlow) and it is just great to get over the ‘line today.”
His presence is vital during the current ongoing transitional phase for the senior footballers, who despite their sterling efforts struggled for wins over the last few years.
As a consequence, Brian emphasises: “I’m not too worried about appearance numbers or whatever. I am really only focussed on trying to pick up wins with this group.
“Maybe years ago wins came a little easier for us and we took them for granted whereas now we are in a position where you really savour every victory.
“And,” he says of the Carlow result last weekend, “here’s our first win we have picked up in a good few games (since March last year). So we are delighted today, and that is all I’m focussed on now.
“Whenever I do stop playing, then I’ll look back with fondness and be able to say, ‘Yeah, I played a good few games’. But I’m not even thinking about that at the moment.”
The nature of last Saturday’s result wasn’t far removed from the previous Sunday’s endeavour in the opening-round loss away to Antrim.
Good, honest enterprise and work-rate were evident both weekends.
The only difference on Saturday was the outcome – victory instead of a frustrating defeat.
Brian agrees that the shoulders have, indeed, been to the wheel over recent years, but without satisfaction in the results-column.
“We’ve been close in a lot of games and we just haven’t been able to get over the ‘line. There today against Carlow, we were a good few points up at half-time (2-6 to 0-2). But they came back and got a goal and a point (2-6 to 1-3), and maybe in other years we could have let them beat us. But we stood up today, and that’s a good thing, especially with the young lads we have.
“Those young men have no fear and it is great that they bring that positivity and energy, that we are able to kick-on now and get the win like we did today.
“You simply wouldn’t believe how big one win like that can be for the group. That can really spur things on. We are going back training now and lads will have a pep in their step. That is something which has been missing. We have been close in certain games over recent years. Maybe we lost out because of a lack of luck or lack of belief.
“But we’re building that again this year.”
But, can we look forward to you shooting for 200 appearances?
“We’ll see how it goes,” smiles the 33-year-old, too kind to slam the notion.
Well, his kid brother Glen could be another 100+ candidate in the future having notched 28 competitive outings so far since debuting in 2016.
KEY BRIAN MALONE APPEARANCE FIGURES
– Brian’s first game was an All-Ireland championship Qualifier in Clones, beating Monaghan in 2006.
– 50th appearance was against Roscommon in National League 2010.
– 100th appearance came against University College Dublin in O’Byrne Cup 2014.
– 150th was versus Laois in 2018 Leinster championship in Chadwicks Wexford Park
– He has faced Longford most often (11 times), with Laois next (10), and the list is completed as follows: Fermanagh, Louth, Dublin (all 9 times); Limerick, Westmeath, Offaly (all 8); Wicklow (7); Waterford, Antrim, Sligo, Meath (all 6); Tipperary, Cavan, Carlow, Armagh, Kildare, Roscommon (all 5); London, Derry (both 4); Monaghan, Down, Leitrim (all 3); Cork, Galway, Dublin IT, IT Carlow (all 2); Tyrone, UCD, Clare, DCU (all 1).
– The only opposition Brian has yet to pit himself against competitively in senior football are Donegal, Kerry, Kilkenny and New York.