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Mannion's moment - Dublin forward makes his mark on football's biggest day

The 24-year-old capped off a superb season yesterday.

YESTERDAY WAS NOT Paul Mannion’s first experience of All-Ireland senior football final day.

But it was the one where he was most central to shaping the eventual outcome.

Paul Mannion celebrates with The Sam Maguire Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The biggest day in the football calendar has not always worked out for the 24-year-old. In 2013 he enjoyed a breakthrough summer but was scoreless and substituted in the decider after damaging his hamstring.

In 2015 he was watching on from the stands, having taken time away from football to study in China and travel in the USA.

Last year the Kilmacud Crokes man was sprung from the bench in the drawn final with Mayo and then after getting the nod to start in the replay on the first day of October, he didn’t trouble the scoreboard operator again.

This season Mannion has been terrific for Dublin, mixing his skilful shooting with a ferocious work ethic. He was booked in the opening half yesterday but exploded into life in the second half and encapsulating the improvement in Dublin’s play.

Mannion swung three shots over the bar in the second half – his first time raising a white flag in an All-Ireland final – and capped off a superb season by supplying the goods when Dublin needed them the most.

“I don’t think I’ve massively changed as a player,” reflects Mannion.

“I’ve always had that in me, I think, but getting a bit older, being a bit more mature probably helped.

“It kind of fell into place nicely this year.”

Paul Mannion with Brendan Harrison

Mannion clearly savours this success.

“(It’s) surreal, just surreal. We haven’t talked about it all year, really, and coming into it I was asked about the three in a row and it was something that was in the back of my head.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet, and it won’t for a while but it’s an incredible bunch of lads.

“I’d rather just have a good performance and win quite comfortably, but (it) probably makes it more memorable for sure, yeah, coming through tight games.

“We’ll remember those ones. Some of the lads on the bench who didn’t even get on, it’s absolutely incredible.

“That is our strength and the lads who came on gave us a massive boost as well. It’s a total squad effort.”

Paul Mannion celebrates with the Sam Maguire Paul Mannion celebrates with his Dublin team-mates. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Mannion excelled in the second half, prospering at a time when there was more space in which to roam on the Croke Park pitch after both teams had been cut to 14 men with a pair of red cards brandished.

“It probably just made it a lot more of an open game. I’d say it didn’t suit Mayo as well, they’d be disappointed with their man being sent off.

“It certainly did open up a bit more and for the neutrals looking on, I don’t know if it was a great game but it was heart in mouth stuff there for the last 20 minutes.”

Mannion has three All-Ireland senior medals to his credit. But when considering the stern examinations posed by their opponents yesterday who are still search for the honour they crave, he knows this haul of silver must be appreciated.

“Yeah look, I feel for them and for their great support, they want their team to win and there’s nothing really much I can say to them.

“But there’s an All-Ireland in them if they keep trying, they can have their day.”

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