Paul Mannion is hungry for success in Ireland with Kilmacud Crokes

Last season’s Dublin hurling final brought Na Fianna and Kilmacud Crokes together in a thrilling encounter won by Stillorgan’s side in extra time. He was also notable for the respective jersey sponsors, the Mater Private (Na Fianna) and Beacon Hospital for the eventual champions.

The footballers added their county title and made it through to February’s All-Ireland final.

At Thursday’s official launch of the Beacon sponsorship at Kilmacud Crokes, the focus was on the club and its status as Ireland’s biggest, as well as its and the hospital’s presence in the South Dublin community.

Players were on hand to help with the press call, including their most famous representative Paul Mannion, whose withdrawal from inter-county activity last year after six All-Irelands and three All-Stars a been keenly felt by Dublin.

It is a subject which he specifies from the outset that he will not discuss, preferring to ask questions about his club career, completely upset by an injury in the semi-finals of Leinster last December.

Necessary knee surgery kept him out of the provincial final and the All-Ireland stages, which culminated in a devastating extra-time defeat by Kilcoo with a last-minute goal.

It was impossible not to speculate how much difference Mannion would have made and few would think he didn’t have a good chance of overturning a one-point deficit.

His recovery from the injury has been straightforward and by his own assessment he is “almost 100 per cent” and hopes to return to training soon. In fact, his physio felt that if the club final had taken place on the traditional St. Patrick’s Day date, Mannion might have played a role.

“The recovery time was pretty quick. My leg shrunk a bit when I had the brace on and didn’t move it, but within two or three weeks after exercise and rehab, you get that back. There are loads of guys who have come back from much, much more serious injuries.

He was proud of the team’s resilience in the face of his absence and doesn’t think an All Ireland defeat will prove demoralizing.

“I don’t think it will have any negative impact. In fact, I think it just made the guys more hungry for a win in Ireland. I know it definitely made me hungrier too because for a long time we were dead and buried in the Dublin Championship.

He spoke briefly about life outside the intercounty bubble and the difference it makes.

“Yes it does. The commitment and time spent playing inter-county football is well documented. Sometimes when you’re in there it can be a bit of a bubble. I liked being a bit out of it from that and being able to spend more time and focus on the club and other things. It was a good time.

He was also asked about Dublin’s other prematurely retired footballer, Jack McCaffrey, a contemporary who came through development squads and retired in 2020, a year before Mannion. Is he also satisfied with his decision?

“I think so, you never know what’s going through Jack’s head. I think he’s going to Africa this summer for a few more months there. He’s a bit of a free spirit, he just goes where the wind takes him. He seems to be doing well. I met him in Manchester a few weeks ago for a game against United City – it didn’t go very well. He is in great shape, he loves life.

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