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Paul Mannion: Loss of Shane O’Hanlon will absolutely be a big motivating force for us this year


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It was right at the end of the first half of Sunday’s Leinster final. Dublin were losing by a point. Struggling with Louth’s constriction techniques. But the reaction, the gasp, was for Paul Mannion.

He went down. Looked in some discomfort. Held his ankle. Hobbled around a bit. You don’t need to be Paul Mannion’s GP or a Dublin physio to know he has had ankle issues.

“I do still feel it,” Mannion confirms. “I don’t think it’ll ever feel the exact same as it did, or feel like the other one, but it’s not giving me any pain, any trouble anymore.”

On Sunday, Mannion re-emerged for the second half of the closest Leinster final we’ve seen since before he played for Dublin. On a day of questionable value, Mannion avoiding another serious ankle injury was a small but significant victory.

Given a Sophie’s Choice of either losing the Leinster final or losing Mannion for the rest of the year, it’s not immediately obvious which Dessie Farrell might choose.

“When it does, it kind of flares up after matches or heavy training sessions,” he explains. “I manage it with ice, anti-inflams and that kind of thing. It’s been behaving itself quite well.

Gaelic football:

“Yeah, to get the extra few weeks to build up fitness as well over the last couple of months in training has kind of helped a lot. So definitely physically feel great and kind of ahead of where I was this time last year.”

In shorthand, Mannion’s season last year went like this. Announced his return to the inter-county scene. Played all way to an All-Ireland semi-final for Kilmacud Crokes. Rejoined the Dublin panel for the first time in three years. Slowly built up fitness and form. Ended as man of the match in the All-Ireland final.

“I suppose catching up on fitness and sharpness was as much of an issue as the ankle was,” he recalls now.

“It really was only kind of in the latter stages of the championship where I started to feel myself again, and yeah, not necessarily the ankle but just a combination of fitness and sharpness.

“I was lacking in those areas because of being out for so long with the injuries. So yeah, just touching wood now, trying to avoid another one of those injuries and see out the year.

“It improved a lot, definitely, over the last few months. I feel physically much further ahead than where I was this time last year.

“I’d only probably just got back fully from the ankle injury really around this time last year, kind of the end of April. It was still … I was back playing but it still took a long time to fully recover.”

Mannion turns 31 later this month. He made his Dublin debut 11 years ago but this is his ninth season.

He explains that his decision to come back this year, after such a successful return in 2023, wasn’t taken until after the club championship. He reveals also that the sudden passing of Shane O’Hanlon was one of the factors that brought him back.

“I kinda just knew what he would have wanted me to do and how much he loved it,” Mannion says. “That was when I really knew my mind was made up then.

“He’s at the forefront of our minds. Every training session, every match-day, it’s really, really strange not having him around.

“He will absolutely be a big motivating force for us this year. I just feel like he is with us there really.”

It’s less than two years since Mannion, in what sounded like a full stop on his Dublin career, said: “I do feel like I have kind of drawn a line under it now.”

Which is partly why he has no intention of looking beyond this season until such time as a commitment, or a decision to walk away for a third time, is necessary.

“I don’t know what the long-haul (plan) is at my age is but I’m certainly locked in for this year,” he stresses.

“Every year for the last few years I am kind of just taking it one game at a time, I probably didn’t really make up my mind to fully commit to this year until after the club season. I took some time after the club season to just rest and reflect and plan things

“Of course, locked in for this year. Any time I have tried to play things beyond a year or two I have been wrong myself, so I tend to just focus on what I’m doing now, enjoy it and see where we are at at the end of the year,” concluded Mannion.

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