'happy now' | 

Former Dublin superstar Paul Mannion admits he’s close to point of no return

At 29, the Kilmacud Crokes sharpshooter feels he is pushing beyond his peak years physically which puts him “potentially” close to the point of no return, he admitted.

Former Dublin footballer and Kilmacud Crokes’ star Paul Mannion pictured at the launch of AIB’s new series, The Drive, which explores the adversity faced by inter-county players in the modern game. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Colm Keys

Paul Mannion’s distance from a potential Dublin comeback has grown further with an acknowledgement that he’s now close to the point of no return.

Mannion has uprooted to Boston for the summer where he is committed to playing with the Donegal club in their championship and where Ciarán McFaul, who could have been with Ulster champions Derry this year, is also playing.

The freedom to do that comes courtesy of his decision in early 2021 to take a break from the demands of the inter-county game and opt out of the Dublin panel.

“I do feel like I have kind of drawn a line under it now,” the former All-Star explained. “I’ve been just enjoying the time with the club a lot and as I have said a few times now the opportunity to do different things, to spend time on different things, I’m quite happy now.”

At 29, the Kilmacud Crokes sharpshooter feels he is pushing beyond his peak years physically which puts him “potentially” close to the point of no return, he admitted.

“If I was to jump back into a Dublin senior football training session tomorrow, I’d certainly be feeling the two-year time-out. There’s no doubt that there will be a big gap there now.”

Mannion reiterated that the football was never the issue, it was the time commitment involved in being an inter-county player that diluted his interest.

“I’m still playing football, the game that I love.

“It’s not the game that I wanted to step away from, it’s just the size of the commitment required to play inter-county. I was just exhausted by that.”

And it was clear from a conversation he was having as part of AIB’s latest series ‘The Drive’, focusing on commitments made by club and county players, that his interest is fixed on Kilmacud Crokes retaining their Dublin title.

“I’ve got club championship which for me is just everything I love about Gaelic football. It’s a little bit more stripped back, but you are still competing for the big trophies and championships. Then having fun with all my friends with just a little bit more time elsewhere to focus on work or other things that I wanted to do.”

Mannion is between jobs at present but will take up a new role in August and will remain in Boston until then.

In the meantime, he hopes his Crokes manager Robbie Brennan is not prised away by Meath interest, the Dunboyne resident with strong roots to the Royals being one of those linked to the vacant manager’s job.

“I have no doubt that if he wanted to, he would be capable. He is a fantastic manager from a player-management point of view,” said Mannion. “He builds a very strong connection with the players and the team. He’s done that brilliantly over the few years he has been with us.

“He’d have a different style of management than what I would be used to with Dublin over the years. We have got to the stage where we would all go through a brick wall for him and he and the management team would do the same for us.”

Mannion said the recovery from their February All-Ireland final defeat to Kilcoo, who struck a late goal in extra-time to catch them, began that night.

“I think when you lose an All-Ireland final, or any final, you are obviously hurting and it takes the wind out of your sails. Now, with the two months that have passed, the club is really, really optimistic and even on the night when we got back to the club we were all disappointed but it still felt like a bit of a celebration of how far we had come over the last few years. There was a huge turnout.

“A lot of teams go through those kinds of losses before they eventually get to the big wins so I am hopeful it will be a similar kind of story for us,” said Mannion, who missed the All-Ireland club series because of a knee ligament injury.

Mannion always sensed a kick in his old Dublin colleagues despite relegation from Division 1 and won’t have been troubled by any of the early-season prophesies about them.

“I know from being there that they don’t listen to it. We trained ourselves to not listen to it,” he said. “I think the losses certainly would have hurt them. They would have been frustrated over that and the manner in which they lost those games but they’re not concerned about what people say, about what people think. They’ll know that it’s out there but that’s not what will hurt anyone.”

Nor does he see the accelerating drain of established players, including himself, over the last few years diminishing the quality of their practice games too much.

“There are loads and loads of players from around Dublin that people might not have heard of that are more than capable of putting it up to the best in Ireland and to the best in that Dublin team at the moment, so I’m sure they have been able to replicate that competition.”

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